Building a Culture of Secure Gun Storage: Safeguarding Our Children’s Lives

In the United States, children and teens are the victims of a high rate of gun-related deaths and injuries. Every year, 19,000 children and teens are shot and killed or wounded. These children are also affected when a friend, family member or someone they know is killed with a gun. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 48,000 firearm-related deaths in the United States in 2022, and firearm injuries were the leading cause of death for children and teens (ages 1 to 19). In addition, in 2022, more than 4 out of every 10 deaths were firearm homicides, and nearly 2 out of every 10 medically-treated firearm injuries were unintentional. 

According to the CDC, more than half of firearm related deaths are suicides and the vast majority of child and gun suicides and unintentional shooting deaths occur in the home. Research suggests most individuals who attempt suicide with the use of a firearm die from their injuries. Furthermore, over 80% of children who die by suicide use a gun that belongs to a family member, according to Everytown Research & Policy. Gun suicides and unintentional shootings are a serious public health problem that we know can be preventable. 

Keeping children safe in their homes should be our number one goal and it is important to involve the community at large by building a culture of secure gun storage. Research suggests 4.6 million American children live in homes with at least one gun that is loaded and unlocked. One way to ensure that our children and teens are safe is by storing all firearms securely when they are not in use. Someone may think putting their firearm on a high shelf or in a nightstand is a safe option; however, just because it is out of sight does not mean children or teens do not have access to the weapon. Risk is significantly reduced when firearms are stored securely. 

There are many ways to safely store a firearm in the home:
• Keep all firearms locked and unloaded in a gun safe
• Store ammunition separately in a locked box
• Talk to family members about gun safety
• Consider “smart” guns (like a thumb scan or passcode on a smartphone)

The following resources may be helpful in keeping children
and communities safe:
• Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business: A Toolkit for Safe Firearm
Storage in Your Community Toolkit Safe Firearm Storage
• Secure Gun Storage Saves Kids’ Lives Be Smart for Kids
• The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Project Child Safe

Our children’s lives are precious. Practice gun safety and lock them up!!

Dr. Rachel M. Cash, MD
Behavioral Health Medical Director, Indiana Market

REFERENCES:
https://everytownresearch.org/issue/child-and-teens/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database

Underlying Cause of Death, Injury Mechanism & All Other Leading Causes. Data from 2021.
https://www.larimer.gov/cja/juvenile-gun-safety

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