Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Guns and Your Family
Why is gun safety important?
We have all heard stories about children who are accidentally killed by a gun at home or at a friend's home. These tragedies could be prevented if a few simple safety rules are followed.
Most parents know how to keep cleaning agents and other poisons away from children, and how to cover electric outlets. However, more children under 10 years of age are killed by guns than by poison or electrocution. Gunshot wounds are second only to car accidents as a cause of fatal injury in children. This means that gun safety in your home is as important as using car seats and seat belts in your car.
What can I do to protect my family from gun injury?
If there is a gun in your home, it must be kept out reach of your children and their friends. The gun must also be kept safe from family members who are depressed, abusive to others or abusing drugs (including alcohol), or who have Alzheimer's disease.
Children are naturally curious and like to explore. If there is a gun in your home, keep it unloaded and locked away, separate from the bullets, with the key available only to responsible adults. Teach your children what to do if they find a gun, even if they are not sure if it is real or a toy. Teach them to remember these words: "Stop! Don't touch! Go away! Tell an adult!"
Before your child visits the home of a friend or a baby sitter, ask the parents at that home if they have a gun in the house and, if so, if the gun is unloaded and locked away.
Teenagers often act without thinking first. When teenagers are angry or depressed, they are more likely to kill themselves or harm themselves if they can easily get a gun. It's best not to have a gun in your home at all if someone who lives there is depressed or thinking of suicide, or is a troubled teenager.
Are there other ways I can keep violence out of my family's life?
Children learn how to behave by watching and doing what the adults around them are doing. It's best for the parents to talk peacefully in the home, to solve problems with discussion instead of anger or physical violence, and to treat all people with respect.
Parents who want to raise peaceful children may also choose not to allow their children to watch violent TV shows, to play video games that involve one player hurting another, or to play with toys that are "pretend" weapons.
Children who watch violent TV shows and play violent video games are likely to model violent behavior. Children who watch a lot of violent TV shows or movies may even have trouble understanding that violence in real life actually hurts people.
For more information, contact:
Adolescent Violence Prevention Resource Center
National Child Safety Council
National Citizens' Crime Prevention Campaign
National Mental Health Association
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
Toughlove International (for parents of troubled children)