When I was 14, I knew a boy who was playing with what he thought was an unloaded gun. He and his younger brother were taking turns waving the weapon at each other. The older brother pointed the gun at his sibling and pulled the trigger. The gun went off, and the little boy died.
Unfortunately, little has changed since then. Gun violence involving children continues to be a real problem in our community and country. According to a new study, nearly 6,000 kids receive medical treatment in emergency rooms each year for gun-related injuries — nearly 1,300 of them are deadly.
The local numbers also are startling. According to Gun Violence Archive, 169 Kentucky kids have been injured or killed by guns in the past three years. Those numbers don’t include suicides.
“It’s better not to have a gun in the house at all when kids are around,” said Sharon Rengers, R.N., manager of Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness. “But the reality is people have guns, and it’s up to adults to keep kids safe.”
Rengers says if you own a gun, follow these steps to keep your kids safe
- Store firearms in a locked location, unloaded, out of the reach and sight of children. A night stand, bedroom closet or glass gun case isn’t enough. Kids are curious and tend to explore.
- Store ammunition in a separate locked location, out of the reach and sight of children.
- Make sure all guns have child-resistant gun locks.
- Keep the keys and lock combinations hidden.
- When a gun is not in its lock box, keep it in your line of sight.
- If a visitor brings a firearm into your home, provide a locked place to hold it while in your home.
Even if you don’t own a firearm, it’s important to do the following
- Explain to kids that guns on television or video games are different from real life. A real gun can hurt or kill people.
- Teach children what to do if they find a firearm and there are no responsible adults around. It’s simple: Leave. Tell the child to find an adult and make them aware of the situation, and if they don’t seem to share your child’s concern, go back to that first piece of advice: Leave.
- Talk about safe gun storage practices with family members or friends your children visit.
- Before your child goes to a friend’s house to play, ask the friend’s parents if there are any firearms in the house. Make sure they have stored any guns and ammunition safely.
Read more: Guns and kids don’t mix