Firearm Safety and Adolescents

Adolescents and firearms can be a volatile mix. Driven by curiosity and impulse, access to firearms can have tragic results among the adolescent population. Unintentional shootings account for nearly 20 percent of all firearm-related fatalities among children ages 14 and under.

Statistics about firearms and adolescents

Consider the following statistics regarding adolescents and firearms:

  • Most unintentional firearm-related deaths among children occur in or around the home; 50 percent at the home of the victim, and 40 percent at the home of a friend or relative.

  • The presence of a firearm in the home increases the risk of unintentional firearm-related death among children (especially if the firearm is loaded and kept unlocked).

  • Up to one-half of firearm owners keep their firearms loaded and ready for use at least some of the time.

  • Approximately 3.3 million children in the U.S. live in households with firearms that are, at times, kept loaded and unlocked.

How can I keep my adolescent safe from firearms?

It is estimated that 40 percent of all homes in the U.S. have some type of firearm, of which one in four is a handgun. Access to firearms in the home increases the risk of unintentional firearm-related death and injury among children. In addition, firearms are often portrayed on television and in movies as glamorous.

To keep your adolescent safe from firearms, consider whether it is worth the risk to keep a firearm in your home. If you do choose to keep a firearm, safely store the firearm locked up and out of reach, and keep ammunition in a separate, locked place from the actual firearm. Also, talk with your adolescent about the very real dangers of firearms.

Who is most at risk for a firearm-related injury?

Several factors can increase your child's risk for injury or death from a firearm, including:

  • Easy access to loaded firearms is the most obvious factor that can increase your adolescent's risk for injury or death.

  • Adolescents who committed suicide with a firearm were five times more likely to have been drinking alcohol, and the majority of family member killings by firearms involved the use of alcohol.

  • Television, movie, and computer game violence may be linked to an increased risk of firearm violence. However, this link remains controversial and needs further research.

  • Behavioral and emotional problems may contribute to an increased risk of using firearms among adolescents.