Azucena Lopez is a Master of Public Health candidate at Northwestern University in the Community Health Research concentration. She is a Chicago native passionate about creating safe and healthy neighborhoods through conducting and applying public health research.
Children and Guns
“Is there an unlocked gun in your house?” Asking[SK1] about guns and safe storage can keep your child alive. Too often children gain access to a loaded firearm and tragically shoot themselves or someone else. The 2015 national survey results indicate there are 4.6 million American children living in a household with the presence of a firearm in which at least one gun is unlocked and loaded.1 By unloading, locking, and storing ammunition in a separate space unintentional shootings can be prevented.
According to the Small Arms Survey, results indicate that the number of guns per 100 residents is at 120.5, meaning there are more firearms than people in the United States.2 With many firearms circulating in the United States, children are likely to live or visit a home with a poorly stored firearm(s).
When a child gets access to a gun and unintentionally kills or injures themselves or others, the experience is traumatic and devastating. If the unintentional shooting does not result in a death, serious injuries can lead to long-lasting health implications for the injured and those involved.
Deaths and injuries by guns among children are preventable with secure storage practices and awareness. Although asking yourself and others about the presence of guns in a household may sound like an awkward conversation it is lifesaving.
Children do not have the judgment to make smart decisions in the presence of guns, but adults can be smart about talking about secure storage practices and awareness. The BE SMART framework[SK2] [SK3] is a guide to help parents and guardians talk about secure storage and awareness.
What is the Be SMART?
Secure all guns in the household and vehicles.
Make sure to unload, lock and separate ammunition from household firearms. Model
Model responsible behavior around guns.
“Hey, given the increase in unintentional firearm accidents among children I bought this super secure gun lock, and I am happy to buy one for you in case you do not have one.”
Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes even if it’s your best friend or parent.
“Hey, I am super excited for the children to sleep over your place. Before I drop them off, I just want to make sure I ask about any firearms in your house and their storage. I just want to make sure my kids know the safety rules when visiting."
Recognize the role of guns in suicide.
“Hey, I’ve been feeling a bit stressed with the increase in unintentional shooting and suicides by firearms among children. So many children are dying or seriously injuring themselves due to poor gun storage.”
Tell your peers to be SMART.
“Hey, I know this may be a difficult conversation to have but with the recent increase in unintentional shootings, make sure you and others are being smart about firearm storage.”
1. Azrael, D., et al., Firearm Storage in Gun-Owning Households with Children: Results of a 2015 National Survey. J Urban Health, 2018. 95(3): p. 295-304.
2. Karp, A., Estimating Global Civilian Held Firearms Numbers. 2018: Small Arms Survey. p. 10.