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Guns and Children

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KEY POINTS

  • There truly are no "safe" places. The reality is that your child, at some point, will probably come in contact with a gun. It is very important for your child to know how to be safe around guns.
  • Talk with your kids about the differences between violence on TV and in video games and real-life violence. Help your child learn to use words, rather than a gun, to resolve conflicts.
  • If you have a gun, keep it unloaded and locked up, and store ammunition separately. When handling and cleaning a gun, never leave it unattended, even for a second.

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Guns in the home have caused both serious injury and death in children and teens. The reality is that your child, at some point, will probably come in contact with a gun. It is very important for your child to know how to be safe around guns.

As a parent, there are things that you can do to protect your child and other children.

How can I protect my child?

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the best way to keep children safe from injury or death from guns is to not have a gun in the home. However, just because you don’t have guns in your home does not mean that your children are safe from the dangers of guns.

  • Check out the places where your children visit and play and make sure that if there are guns, they are safely stored.
  • If a visitor has a gun in a briefcase, handbag, luggage, or unlocked car while staying in your home, put it in a locked place.
  • Teach your children never to touch a gun. Tell them if they see a gun to leave the area right away and tell an adult. Tell them not to touch the gun or let other kids touch it. Even toy guns can look real, and it’s best not to take a chance. Repeat this message regularly.
  • Start talking with your child about gun safety at an early age. If your child shows an interest in firearms, even toy pistols or rifles, that’s the time to talk about guns. Talk with your kids about the differences between violence on TV shows and in video games and real-life violence. Talk about gun safety when you talk about other safety matters, such as wearing seat belts or swimming safely.
  • Teach your child to express frustrations and anger in positive ways. Help your child learn to use words, rather than a gun, to resolve conflicts. Teach your child to stay away from children who threaten violence and to report any threats to school officials or to you.
  • Watch for signs of depression or change in behavior. Children and teens may use a gun to commit suicide or to hurt others. If your teen has severe mood swings or gets depressed, remove and store the gun outside the home for the time being.
  • Teach teens to avoid people and places where they suspect violence might flare up easily, such as parties where there will be drugs and alcohol.

If you own a gun:

  • Keep your gun unloaded and locked up. Hide the keys where children can't find them. Only parents should know where guns are kept.
  • Store the ammunition separately. Make sure that it is locked up.
  • Lock up the gun cleaning supplies. They are often poisonous.
  • Put trigger locks on all firearms.
  • When handling and cleaning a gun, never leave it unattended, even for a second. A child as young as 3 has the finger strength to pull a trigger.

What about toy guns and BB guns?

  • Before using BB guns or toy guns that shoot objects, children and teens need to learn how to handle the guns properly, just as they would with a real gun.
  • Make sure that toy guns don't look like real guns. They should be brightly colored. Playing with toy guns could make it easier for a young child to mistake a real gun as a toy. Police officers could also mistake a toy gun for a real gun in your child's hands.
  • Make sure that the sound of a toy gun or BB gun isn't too loud. This could cause hearing loss. Children should wear hearing protection if needed.
  • BB guns can kill. It is recommended that only kids 16 years of age and older use BB or pellet guns.
  • Toy guns that shoot objects could cause eye injuries. Kids should wear protective eye wear when using them. They should only be used under strict adult supervision.

What about school safety?

No one should bring a gun or weapon to school. Talk with your child about his day and ask if anything or anyone is bothering him. Talk with school staff about safety and how best to protect your child.

Teach your child what to do if:

  • Another student tells your child that they have a gun or other weapon
  • Threatens violence to other students or teachers, either online or in person
  • Shows a weapon to your child

Teach your child to:

  • Get away from the person quickly and quietly.
  • Tell a teacher, parent, coach, or other adult, right away, or call 911.
  • Tell an adult what he saw, who was involved, and if they were threatening someone or just showing off.

If there is an active shooter in the school, teach your child to:

  • Hide behind something that will cover and protect him from bullets. For example a pillar, counter in the science lab, car, or tree.
  • When hiding, stay on hands and knees instead of laying down.
  • If there is no cover, run in a zigzag motion as fast as he can to a safer place outside the building.

There truly are no "safe" places. The reality is that your child, at some point, will probably come in contact with a gun. It is very important for your child to know how to be safe around guns. Teaching children about guns can be life-saving information they will carry into adulthood.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2018-05-25
Last reviewed: 2018-05-21
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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