Asking about guns is a health issue.
Firearms remain a leading cause of death (intentional and unintentional) for children in our country. As pediatricians and other child health care providers, the safety of our patients is our greatest concern. We do not hesitate to ask our families if they provide car seats, bike helmets, controlled water temperature, and locked medications to protect their children. Asking about properly stored guns is no different and should be incorporated into routine well child exams. Parents listen to their health care providers and will do a better job of protecting their children if they are reminded of the importance of safety measures. We should remind them that safe gun storage means keeping guns locked and unloaded with ammunition stored separately. Children should be taught not to go snooping for guns, not to touch a gun and to tell an adult if they see another young person handling a gun. However, you cannot trust a child to always follow these rules, because they are children after all. It is our job as adults to protect them to the best of our ability.
Key guidelines for safe storage include:
- Unloaded firearms should be stored in a locked cabinet, safe, gun vault or storage case. The storage location should be inaccessible to children.
- Gun locking devices render firearms inoperable and can be used in addition to locked storage. If firearms are disassembled, parts should be securely stored in separate locations.
- Ammunition should be stored in a locked location separate from firearms.
Thoroughly double check firearms to confirm that they are unloaded when you remove them from storage. Accidents could occur if a family member borrows a gun and returns it to storage while still loaded.
Teaching your families:
Children and adolescents are naturally curious about firearms and, as a result, may be tempted to “play” with a firearm they find. Make sure young people in your home are aware of and understand these safety guidelines:
1. Don’t go snooping, or allow other kids to go snooping, for guns in the house.
2. If you find a gun in your house, or anywhere else, STOP! Do not touch it or allow anyone else to. Leave the area and be sure to immediately tell an adult.
3. Even if a gun looks like a toy, don’t touch it. Some real guns look like toy guns, so don’t take a chance. Leave the area and immediately tell an adult.
Certain gun storage practices can reduce risk of youth suicide and accidental injuries:
Seattle—Keeping a gun locked, unloaded, and storing ammunition in a locked and separate location can lower the risk of unintentional injuries and suicide among youth, according to a study in the February 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Article from Pediatrics: Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population
Distributing firearm locks Through Pediatricians’ Offices Achieves Safer Gun Storage
Some useful websites:
Find out about Utah’s Gun Laws: