A firearm in the home, whether loaded or not, increases the risk of firearm-related injuries to children. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocates the removal of handguns from areas where children live and play. Even if your household does not contain a gun, it is likely that your child will come into contact with a firearm at another house, as it is estimated that 40 percent of U.S. homes have a firearm.
Awareness of situations that can increase your child's risk of exposure to unintentional firearms injuries may help prevent them. High-risk situations include, but are not limited to, the following:
Accessible firearms in the home. Parents often underestimate their child's ability to gain access to the firearm in the house, or even the child's ability to pull the trigger. Statistics show that 75 to 80 percent of first and second graders, who live in a home with a firearm, know where the firearm is kept. In addition, children as young as 3 may be strong enough to pull the trigger of a firearm.
Accessible firearms at another home. Even if your home does not contain a firearm, your neighbor, friend, or relative may have an accessible firearm in the house.
Adolescent boys. The majority of children, ages 14 and under, killed unintentionally by a firearm, are boys (nearly 80 percent). AAP considers homes with adolescent boys at a higher risk for unintentional firearm-related injury and death.
Ammunition and firearms stored together. When a firearm is stored with ammunition, or left loaded, it greatly increases the risk of unintentional firearm-related injury and death. It is estimated that between one-third and one-half of all firearm owners keep their firearms loaded and ready for use at all times.
Lack of supervision. Most unintentional firearm shootings among children occur during times when children are not supervised, such as during the late afternoon, on weekends, and during summer months.
High-risk homes. According to AAP, homes that can increase the risk of unintentional firearm-related injury and death include homes where there are alcohol or drug-addicted individuals.
Preparing for high-risk situations before your child encounters them can help reduce the risk of firearm-related injury. Teach children never to touch a gun and to tell an adult if they find one.