A gun, found by a child, can change lives forever in just a few moments. On ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Day, June 21, parents are reminded how important it is to ask other parents and caregivers if there is a gun in the home where their child is going to play.
One-third of households with children under age 17 have a gun in the home, so it is highly likely that at some point your child will visit a home where guns are present. All parents need to be comfortable asking if there are guns in the homes their children visit and, if so, whether the guns and ammunition are safely locked and stored. These questions have the power to save a child’s life. Child safety experts have the following tips for starting this important conversation:
Asking about an unlocked gun is simply another safety question
If you’re nervous about asking, consider this: Parents ask all sorts of questions before their children visit other homes. They ask about pets in the house, discuss allergies and Internet access, and ask questions about supervision. Many of these questions may already sound familiar to you and be part of your normal routine:
- Will you be home?
- Is there a dog in your house?
- Will the children be playing in the pool?
- How many children will be there?
- Will they be on the Internet?
- Does my child need a helmet for bike riding or sunscreen for outside play?
“Is there an unlocked gun in your house?” is simply another question that should be on the list when you exchange numbers and talk through the details of your child’s visit. While we recognize this can be awkward, it is important and needs to be done. And parents really don’t mind: According to a national survey, 93 percent of parents say they would be comfortable with being asked about a gun in their home – and this number includes parents who choose to own guns. To date, more than 19 million parents have already begun asking this life-saving question.
Ways to start the conversation
Here are some suggestions for ways to bring up the topic:
- “I hope you don’t mind me asking a few questions about the kids’ safety.”
- “I want you to know I’ve spoken to my kids about not playing with guns but…”
- “I’m not judging anything. I just want to be sure my child is safe…”
- “I heard the most surprising fact from my child’s pediatrician…”
- “We all know how curious kids can be…”
- “Do you remember the tragic story about the kids who found a gun…”
- “All of us in the PTA have committed to making sure our kids are safe…”
- “Remember what we found in our houses when we were kids!”
- “I just read this blog post from our doctor’s office…”
When you have your answer
If the answer is “no” then you have one less thing to worry about. If the answer is “yes,” make sure all guns are stored unloaded and locked, ideally in a gun safe, with ammunition locked separately. (Visit CHoR’s gun safety blog post or information about safe gun storage practices.) If you have any doubts about safety, invite the children to your home instead.
Why asking matters so much
- 1 in 3 homes with children have guns, many left unlocked and loaded
- 3 in 4 children ages 5-14 know where firearms are kept in the home
- 80 percent of unintentional firearm deaths of children under 15 occur in a home
- 9 children and teens are shot each day in gun accidents
Hiding guns is not enough. Just talking to kids is not enough.
Children are curious and if they find guns they’re likely to play with them. We urge parents to take action and get involved to ensure children’s safety. Be sure your child knows what to do if they encounter a gun. Talking with children about this topic can help keep them safe.
The information, tips and statistics featured here are adapted from the ASK (Asking Saves Lives) Campaign which is a collaboration between the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Due to a rise in gunshot-related injuries and fatalities seen in our trauma center and hospitals across the country, CHoR’s Children’s Trauma Center has identified gun safety as an area of special focus for children in Virginia. For additional gun safety recommendations, visit CHoR’s gun safety blog post.