Firearm injuries are the third leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 17 and are responsible for thousands of children needing emergency medical care for wounds, fractures, and brain and spinal injuries. Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness offers gun safety information for families to keep children safe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks Kentucky 17th in the nation for number of gun-related deaths, including unintentional deaths, suicides and homicides.
Gun violence statistics in Kentucky also show:
- Guns are a leading cause of death among children and teens. About 60 Kentucky children die by guns every year.
- Nearly 6 in 10 Kentucky adults who live with a child have a gun in or around the home.
- Children who witness a shooting can experience psychological effects, such as fear, anxiety and elevated stress.
Guns should always be stored unloaded, locked and separate from ammunition to prevent accidental injury.
Gun Safety Lessons Help, But It’s Up to Parents to Protect Children
It’s important to teach children to “stop — don’t touch and tell an adult” if they see a gun. However, researchers found most children still will approach a gun if unsupervised. Their curiosity is likely to overshadow lessons learned. Also, gun safety lessons can be hard for children to remember when faced with the opportunity to see a weapon.
In addition to safety lessons, parents are at the front line of safeguarding their children from accidental shootings — they cannot rely on safety training alone.
Gun Safety at Home
- Store ammunition in a separate locked location, out of reach and sight of children.
- Keep gun and ammunition safe keys and combinations hidden.
- When a gun is not being stored, it should be on your person and in your immediate control at all times.
- If a visitor has a gun in your home, provide them with a space to lock it up.
- Dispose of guns you don’t need in a safe way. Consult with law enforcement in your community on how to do so.
- Store guns in a locked location, unloaded, out of reach and sight of children.
To request a free gun lock to be mailed to your home, fill out the form below or call (502) 629-7358. One lock per household. Limited quantity available while supplies last.
More Ways to Protect Children From Guns
- Before dropping your child off at someone’s home, ask the parents if they have a gun on the premises. Many gun owners aren’t likely to share if they own a gun, so it’s important to make a point to ask. It is a simple question with the power to save lives.
- If you aren’t comfortable with the answer, do not allow your child to visit the home.
- Frequently reinforce the message to never touch a gun without an adult present.
- Reinforce the plan of action with your child. Say something like, “If a friend wants to show you a gun, say ‘No’ and leave or call an adult for a ride. Tell me right away what happened. Don’t worry about getting your friend into trouble — you will be helping keep them safe.”
- Have discussions with young children about the difference between real guns and toys. They are learning about guns on TV, in movies and video games; and although they may not ever ask, they likely have a lot of questions.
Be Cautious of Guns Marketed as ‘Childproof’
Firearms manufacturers have introduced new technology intended to make guns harder for children to operate. While these features have the potential to save lives, they are not foolproof. Regardless of whether a gun has this technology, firearms still should be properly locked away to prevent children from finding them.
Teens and Guns
- Every day, 78 children, teens and young adults are injured or killed by guns in the United States.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among children and young adults ages 10 to 24 in Kentucky, and firearms are associated with over half of Kentucky’s childhood suicides.
Gun Safety Guidelines for Teens
- Be a role model for your teen. Always keep the gun unloaded and locked up.
- Remind teens not to touch, pick up or use a gun without adult permission/supervision.
- Tell teens to treat all guns as if they’re loaded and to never point a gun at anyone.
- Just like with other conversations about safety (such as driving a car), discuss the reality of guns and frequently reinforce the messages.
- Particularly if you have guns in the house, frequently ask about your teen’s mental health (such as stress at school, friends, dating, finances).
Teaching Teens Safe Gun Use
- Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
- Always keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
- Always wear hearing protection.
- Never point the gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot.
- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
Nonpowder Guns, BB Guns and Toy Guns
Nonpowder guns, such as ball-bearing (BB) guns, pellet guns, air rifles and paintball guns, can cause serious injuries to children and teens.
- Pellet and BB guns are high powered and can injure a child. They should be used only under adult supervision. The Consumer Products Safety Commission recommends only kids ages 16 and older use BB guns.
- Parents may underestimate the potential for injury from BB and pellet guns unless their child has been wounded by one.
- Playing with toy guns could make it easier for your child to mistake a real gun as a toy.
- Police officers may mistake a toy gun for a real gun. Toy guns should not look like real guns and should always retain the orange cap on the barrel.
- Toy guns with projectiles, such as airsoft guns and paintball guns, can cause eye injuries, including severe and permanent vision loss. Kids should wear eye protection when using them.
- Make sure the firing sound is not too loud, as it could damage your child’s hearing. Children should wear hearing protection.
- Don’t let kids put caps from toy guns in their pockets. They can ignite and cause burn injuries.