How should parents address issues like gun violence and safety with young children? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that the safest home for children and teens is one without guns. A gun in the home increases the risk of homicide, suicide, and accidental death. Evidence shows that a gun in the home is twenty-two times more likely to be used in domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense . A gun in the home is far more likely to kill a family member or someone known to the family than to be used successfully against an intruder . For young children, the risk of unintentional injury or death is significantly higher with a gun in the home. Children are naturally curious about guns, and telling them to stay away and not touch the gun does not always work. For teenagers there is a three to five times higher risk of suicide with a gun in the home.
If there are guns in the home, scientific evidence shows the risk of injury or death is greatly decreased with safe storage. Guns should be stored unloaded and locked, and the ammunition should be locked in a separate place. Hiding a gun is not sufficient-- guns must be unloaded and locked safely.
Pediatricians are advised to discuss injury-prevention counseling with families as part of their well child care visits. Parents are also encouraged to ask other parents if there is a gun in the home where their child is going to play. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence partnered to make June 21st National ASK Day (Asking Saves Kids): "Is there an unlocked gun where my child plays?"
The ASK campaign is part of a larger effort to educate parents and children about guns and gun safety. The first step is counseling parents to remove guns from the home given the high risk associated with gun ownership. If parents do not want to remove guns from their home, safe storage is essential to keeping kids safe. Parents are also encouraged to ask other parents if there is a gun in the home where their child is going to play.
Guns are estimated to be in about one third of all U.S. households, so children should be educated about gun safety whether they live in a household with a gun or not. Just as parents teach their children to not get in a car or go off with a stranger, they should also teach their children to walk away if they come across a gun. This means explaining to children that:
- Real guns (unlike guns in movies, TV and video games) can injure or kill.
- If they come across a gun, they should take the following steps (outlined in
- stop what they're doing
- do not touch the gun
- leave the area where the gun is
- tell an adult right away
- If they are in an area that includes a gun, they should leave to avoid being harmed by someone who doesn't know how to operate a gun (including toddlers and young children).
- Unfortunately injuries and deaths occur around the U.S. from children as young as three years old pulling a trigger of a gun that wasn't safely stored. More preschoolers are killed with guns each year than officers in the line of duty. 
With gun deaths the second leading cause of death in Americans ages one to forty-five, educating children about guns is critically important for public health and safety.
- Guns and Firearms: If there was a button that removed all guns from the world, and I pressed it, what would likely happen in the aftermath?
- Weapons: Should I allow my 18 year-old teenager to keep his pistol in his room?
- Parenting: Do parents in countries other than the United States promote playing with toy guns?