When you are a parent, you look at the world a different way. When your toddler starts exploring, you may babyproof your house. Some parents put locks on every cabinet, door, and toilet; others target specific areas of danger and may just cover outlets and gate the stairs. For my blind child, I make sure walkways are clear of tripping hazards. Parents educate their children about dangers in the home, including hot stoves and kitchen knives, so that they learn how to stay safe. When it comes to guns, why are so many parents failing to address safety?
Today the Associated Press and USA Today published a study that says “gun accidents kill 1 kid every other day.” The article states that many children under 5 have died from self-inflicted gunshots, and teens have negligent discharges, too, when showing guns to their friends. The article admits that accidental deaths among children are a fraction of firearm deaths; however, it does highlight a tragic problem that can be minimized with education and outreach.
As a community of responsible gun owners we have to say, “YOU! Yes, you! Secure your firearm.” If you don’t have safe storage options in your home, get one today. Keep your handgun holstered on your body and in your direct control unless it is in a safe. If you want to have it off your body, but able to be accessed quickly, get a biometric safe that allows you quick entry in an emergency. If you have your gun in a travel case, put a padlock on it. If you carry your gun in your purse or range bag, immediately move your gun to a safe when it is not in your direct possession. Do not become complacent or lazy about safe storage.
Secondly, talk to your kids about firearms. If you have young children, use the Eddie Eagle program to educate them about how to run away from a gun that they may discover. If you have tweens or teens, talk to them about the 4 Rules of Gun Safety, and what to do if they come upon a gun or a friend brings one to them. Use available resources, such as the Kids & Guns DVD, to make these conversations age appropriate and meaningful.
Sandra Zettlemoyer, who is pictured above with her children, says, “Both of my kids know the 4 gun safety rules by heart at 5 and 8 years of age. We also talk to them about ‘what if’ situations. “What if you are at your friend’s house and you see a firearm and there are no adults around… what do you do?’ And we go over this very often. You can never be too safe and can never go over these types of things with them too much.”
If you can barely enjoy TV shows anymore because seeing someone teacup a pistol or seek cover behind the couch makes you cringe, then you should have the same response when seeing or hearing of an unsecured firearm. Do not allow people (yourself included) to make assumptions about if children would access a firearm — insist that gun owners take responsibility that no unauthorized persons could possibly access their firearms. Discuss safe storage options and educational resources with other gun owners that you know.