Firearms are the number 1 leading cause of death for American children and teens. With millions of kids at home, we must make sure firearms are stored securely. The COVID-19 crisis has created new challenges for parents. Children may not be physically in schools and spending more time at home. The boredom and isolation they may be feeling could pose additional risks to their safety. Securing all guns in the home—storing them locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition—can save a child’s life.
- Approximately every 40 minutes, a child or teenager is injured by a gun. Children who live in a home with a gun are at 2 times the risk of homicide and 3 times the risk of suicide. Increased gun sales and isolation during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic increase the risk of youth gun-related injuries.
- An overwhelming majority of unintentional shootings by children could have been prevented with secure storage. Unloaded firearms should be secured with a firearm locking device, such as a jacket or cable lock, or in a locked location, like a safe or lock box. Ammunition should be stored separately from the firearm in a secure location.
- Research indicates that secure gun storage practices, including storing household guns locked, unloaded, and separate from the ammunition, are associated with reduced rates of child firearm suicide. The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that households that locked both firearms and ammunition had a 78 percent lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries among children and teenagers.
The Be SMART program was created to educate parents and guardians about how they can keep their kids safe and help to normalize the conversation regarding asking about firearms in the home. The program asks parents and guardians - gun owners and non-gun owners alike - to “Be SMART” and take these simple steps:
Secure all guns in homes and vehicles
Model responsible behavior
Ask about firearms in other homes that your child visits
Recognize the role of guns in suicide
Tell your peers to Be SMART
Tips for Talking to Your Child
- Make gun safety a part of your normal safety conversation, starting at an early age.
- Ask your child what they already know about guns and what questions they have.
- If your child finds a gun, they should stop, should not touch, and
should tell a grown-up.
- Tell your child not to touch a gun, even if it looks like a toy.
- Repetition is key. Talk about gun safety routinely and add age-appropriate information as your child matures.