There can be several reasons why a member of the family owns a gun. Personal safety takes utmost priority. But does owning a gun really make the home safer?

About 40 percent of all homes in America own some type of firearm, and access to these weapons increases the risk of unintentional injury and death in a family member, especially among children.

How Firearms Affect Our Children

In 2017, at least 285 children got access to a gun and accidentally shot themselves or someone else, but that’s not all. Take a look at some of these alarming numbers:

  • Adolescents are at a higher risk for suicide when a gun is present at home.
  • A gun in the home is more likely used to kill a family member or friend than a burglar or a criminal.
  • A gun at home increases accidental death by four times.
  • The guns used in several school shootings – the most recent one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 – were legally owned by someone in the shooter’s family.

High-Risk Situations to Look Out For

One way of preventing the unintentional use of firearms among children is to always watch out for high-risk situations.

Accessible firearms in the home or at another person’s home is a major factor. Parents often underestimate a child’s ability to find where weapons are kept. It may also come as a surprise how easily children can pull the trigger.

Even if you don’t keep a firearm at home, your neighbors or relatives can. Make sure to remind them to keep their guns properly secured.

Here are other high-risk situations that increases your home’s risk for gun trouble:

  • Unsupervised children. Most shootings among children happen at times when parents leave their children unsupervised. This may happen on weekends, late afternoons, or over the summer.
  • Storing ammunition and firearms together. The risk of injury or death from firearms increases when a gun is locked away together with the ammunition or, worse, left loaded. A third or half of all firearm owners keep loaded firearms to ready them for emergency use.
  • High-risk homes. The risk of gun-related trouble increases when there are drug-addicted or alcoholic individuals in the home.

The Most Effective Safety Advice

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that the most effective way to keep kids safe is to not keep guns in the home.

The absence of firearms at home decreases unintentional gun-related injuries, suicide, and homicide among children and adolescents.

How to Effectively Practice Firearm Safety in the Home

Firearms are a dangerous tool, but they can also keep our loved ones safe.

If you do decide to keep a gun at home, ensure proper gun safety for your children and other family members. Keep these essential tips in mind:

  • Store firearms properly. When finding a storage space for your gun, make sure it is locked away and out of children’s reach. More importantly, always store unloaded guns and lock away the ammunition in a separate area.
  • Keep your neighbors in check. Even if you’ve safely tucked away your firearms at home, your child or teen may visit another home with firearms. Have a talk with your neighbors, especially those your child often visits, to make sure they store their firearms safely in their homes.
  • Educate your child. It’s best to teach your child about the dangers of guns ahead of time. This will ease their curiosity and help prevent accidental injury and death from firearms. As a parent, teach your child to not touch the gun. In the presence of a gun anywhere, tell them to leave the area and tell an adult right away.
  • Use safety devices. You may use safety devices, such as lock boxes, gun locks, and gun safes, to safely store firearms at home. Also make sure to buy only quality gun parts to make sure your firearms don’t go awry.
  • Ensure safety when in use. When using a gun for target practice or hunting, always keep the safety catch in place until you’re ready to pull the trigger. It’s best to not involve children in such activity—they’re not capable enough to handle a potentially lethal weapon.

Be a Responsible Gun Owner

Keeping a gun at home has its pros and cons. But it can only keep the family safe if you’re handling firearms safely yourself. Through these tips, you’re on your way to becoming a more educated and responsible gun owner.