by Holly Bowne
On average, every single day in America a child age 14 and under is killed or injured by the accidental discharge of firearms, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. And most of these weapons are legal.
Whether you are a gun owner, or firmly rooted in the anti-weapons camp, the fact is there are 3 million privately owned guns in the U.S. today. Guns are a part of our society. And even if you have no guns in your home, there’s always a chance your child may come into contact with one in another home when no adult is around.
Experts recommend some key steps parents can take to help keep children safe, and those steps start at the youngest ages.
- Take away the mystery. It’s human nature. When something is forbidden, it’s all the more intriguing. Familiarizing children with guns and explaining the associated dangers is one way to avoid tragedy.
- Real guns are not toys. Let children know they can’t always tell the difference, and teach them what to do if they encounter an unsupervised gun. Even young children are capable of understanding the basic safety message: Stop! Don’t touch! Go tell an adult.
- Get educated. When children reach school age, consider enrolling them in an age-appropriate gun safety program. Education can mean the difference between whether a child “plays” with a gun or leaves it alone. Dan Zelenka, attorney and president of the Louisiana Shooting Association says when children have at least some basic knowledge, the likelihood of an accident occurring decreases significantly.
- Communicate. Parents need to talk to their children about gun safety. If your child will be under the care of another adult, ask them if they own guns and what safety measures are being taken to keep guns out of the children’s reach. And gun-owning parents must be particularly attentive when their children have visitors.
- Lock ’em up. Gun owners should never leave firearms unsecured in their homes. With children in the home, guns should be stored unloaded and in a safe place that’s inaccessible to children. A trigger lock is one of the most basic and effective forms of protection. Another effective method for keeping guns out of children’s reach is to use a gun safe. Store ammunition separate from guns, and keep gun safe and trigger lock keys in a separate place from the rest of the household keys. Lock up gun-cleaning supplies as well, as they’re often poisonous.
- Monitor media. Even though the vast majority of children who play video games don’t pick up a gun and shoot someone, experts agree that parents should monitor the media content their children are viewing. TV, video games, and movies regularly show people handling guns and loading them with ammunition. Some younger children aren’t developmentally able to discern the difference between fantasy and reality.
Guns are intriguing to children, and the reality is, whether it’s at home, a relative or friend’s house, at some point your child may encounter a firearm when you’re not around. Spending time now to educate your child about a gun’s dangers could be the critical difference in preventing a future accident. John Lawton, certified firearms instructor, believes this issue is unique, because he presents to groups that are pro-gun ownership as well as anti-gun, and there is one thing upon which they all agree:
We must protect our children.
Holly Bowne is a Freelance Writer, Travel Copywriter and Professional Blogger.
Please share this article with everyone you know with children or who may have children in their homes to visit.