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Gun Safety

Everything you need to know about keeping kids safe around guns

In 2020, 4,368 children ages 0 to19 were killed by a gun in the United States. The majority of those deaths occurred among 15- to 19-year-olds.

Of those 4,368 deaths:
2,811 (64%) were homicides
1,293 (30%) were suicides
149 (3%) were unintentional
90 (2%) were undetermined intent 
25 (<1%) were legal intervention

In comparison, during that same year, there were 3,711 motor vehicle traffic deaths in this age group. This means that guns are now the leading cause of death for children in the United States. It is estimated that about one third of households with children ages 17 and younger have a gun in the home. The risk of death by suicide is four times higher for adolescents living in a home with a gun.  Every 2.5 days a child or teen is killed by an unintentional gun injury. We need to take extra precautions when children are in an environment where guns are present. 


As parents and caregivers, there are things you can do to help protect your children from gun injury and death.


Store Guns and Ammunition Safely

  • A Blank Children's pediatrician shares tips on storing guns safely in this video.
  • Store guns in a locked location, unloaded, out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store ammunition in a separate locked location, out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Keep the keys and combinations hidden.
  • When a gun is not being stored, it should be in your immediate possession and control at all times. Otherwise, a gun should always be stored locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition.
  • Make sure all guns are equipped with effective, child-resistant gun locks.
  • If a visitor has a gun in a backpack, briefcase, handbag or an unlocked car, provide them with a locked place to store it while they are in your home.
  • Leaving guns on a nightstand, table or other place where a child can gain access may lead to injuries and fatalities.

Contact the Hannah Geneser Learning Center & Safety Store to obtain your FREE gun lock! The Safety Store also offers ammunition storage boxes at below retail price.

Talking to Your Kids about Gun Safety

  • Explain how a gun your child might see on television or a video game is different from a gun in real life. Guns on television aren't real; the actors are just pretending to be hurt. If someone is shot in a video game, you can restart; if someone is shot in real life, they don't get a restart.
  • Show your child photos of various types of guns and make sure they understand that toy guns and real guns can often look very similar, so it's best to never touch.
  • Even if you don't have guns in your own home, teach your children that guns can be very dangerous. If they see a gun, your child should stop what they are doing, don't touch the gun (even if they think it's a toy), immediately leave the area and tell an adult right away.
  • Play a "what if" game with your child to test what they would do in different situations, such as, "What if you're at your friend's house and you see a gun on their kitchen table?" Talk through safe, appropriate responses to a variety of situations. Remember: stop, don't touch, leave, tell an adult.
  • When your child is older (middle school or older), use news stories about gun violence as a starting point to discuss how potentially harmful guns can be.
  • Some tweens and teens may not feel comfortable standing up for themselves in social situations where guns might be present, such as at a friend's house. Suggest phrases they could use to remove themselves from the situation such as, "This is boring. Let's go do something outside."
  • It may feel awkward talking to your teen about guns. Try starting a conversation by asking questions such as, "Do kids at school talk about guns?" or "Have you ever seen a gun at your friend's house?"
  • Ask your teen about their own safety concerns regarding guns. Perhaps they have gun-related questions or concerns that you haven't thought about. Helping them work through their concerns and developing a plan to keep them safe can calm their (and your) fears.
  • If you have a teenager who babysits, have a conversation with them about gun safety in the home where they will be watching children. Watch this video for tips on helping your child communicate about gun safety, as well as how to talk with the parents of the children your teen will be babysitting about whether or not they have guns in their home and making sure they are locked and stored safely with the ammunition stored separately. 
  • No matter their age, reassure children that the trusted adults in their lives are working to keep them safe. 

Talking to Other Parents about Gun Safety

  • This Blank Children's pediatrician shares tips on talking with other parents.
  • Many parents and caregivers find it difficult to ask other adults about guns they may have in their homes. Remember that having an awkward conversation could very well save your child from possible gun injury.
  • If your child plans to have a play date at a friend's house, assume there may be an unlocked gun in the home and have a general safety conversation with that child's parents beforehand. Include a number of safety topics such as food allergies, sunscreen if playing outside, pets in the home, and unlocked guns to make the conversation about safety, not personal judgments.  
  • All parents want to keep their children safe, so couch your concerns about gun safety within the context of other safety topics. For example, "My son tends to have a lot of energy and is very curious. If you think the kids will want to go biking, I can bring his bike helmet. He doesn't have any food allergies but giving him too much sugar often makes him more challenging. He's also very curious about guns, so if you have guns in your home, I just want to make sure those are locked up and out of sight." 
  • If you're still nervous about having gun safety conversations with other parents, practice with close friends or relatives. The more comfortable you are with the topic, the easier the conversation will go.

Talking to Grandparents about Gun Safety

  • In this video, a Blank Children's Hospital pediatrician shares tips on talking with grandparents about gun safety.
  • Explain to grandparents that many things are different about parenting today than they were in previous generations. Children are exposed to significantly more gun violence now through movies, television, video games and other media than when grandparents were raising their kids. This alone desensitizes children to the dangers of guns and makes them more curious.
  • Remember that both you and your children's grandparents are on the same team. You all want your children to be safe and loved.
  • When it comes to gun safety, guns are very different now than they were decades ago, so safety measures must also be different. 
  • If your child's grandparents have guns in their homes, talk to them about the importance of locking up the guns, as well as locking up the ammunition in a separate location. 
  • Guns are often an integral part of farm life, and hunting is often an important generational activity. If that's true for your family or your child's grandparents, be sure to talk with your children and their grandparents about using guns safely, storing them properly, and always having an adult present when guns are in use.

How to Dispose of Guns You Don't Need
If you decide you no longer need to have a gun in your home, dispose of it in a safe way. Consult with law enforcement in your community or your county sheriff's office on how to do so. 


Additional Resources

American Academy of Pediatrics
Safe Kids Worldwide
Seattle Children's Hospital
Everytown for Gun Safety