Firearms safety tips for gun owners and family members

November 28, 2018

In our last column, we discussed gun safety. Today's column provides advice to parents and grandparents who have a gun in the home.

Guns and children are a volatile mix. Gunshot wounds are second only to car accidents as a cause of fatal injury in children.

Almost 30 children are injured or killed daily by guns; most of the guns are owned by the child's family or friends, researchers have found. One-third of all families in America that have children also have guns, and more than 40 percent of them don't keep their guns locked up. Children younger than 8 can't tell the difference between a real gun and a toy, and 3-year-olds are strong enough to pull the trigger on a real gun. Children and teens commit more than half of all unintentional shootings.

So what should you do to protect children who are in a home with a gun? I'll provide some tips, but, if you want a detailed safety program you can teach your children at home, call the Eddie Eagle Program at 800-231-0752. This program is sponsored by the National Rifle Association.

If you teach them nothing else, repeat these instructions over and over to them – If you find a gun: STOP! Don't touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.

Don't allow guns to become mysterious. If they are an unknown, children will become curious and look for your gun when you are not around. Talk openly about them.

Discuss gun use on television and movies where firearms are often handled carelessly and characters are “killed.” Tell children about the real dangers guns present.

Explain the difference between toy guns and real guns. If your child has toy guns, you can use them to demonstrate how they are different from genuine firearms. You can also use them to teach safe gun handling.

Store guns so that they are inaccessible to children and other unauthorized users. Gun shops sell a wide variety of safes, cases, and other security devices.

Gun safety is also worth teaching your children even if you don't own a gun. According to federal statistics, there are guns in about half of all U.S. households. Your child or grandchild could visit a friend and confront a gun.

A recent survey done at the University of Michigan found that most American parents who own guns discuss gun safety with their children, but the majority of parents who don't own guns ignore the subject.

In their national poll on children's health, the researchers asked 1,621 parents about gun ownership and if they had discussed gun safety with their children.

One-third of respondents with children ages 5 to 17 said they had a gun in the home. Of parents with guns in the home, 82 percent said they have talked to their children about gun safety. But only 48 percent of parents without guns in the home have ever discussed gun safety with their children.

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