Written by Julia Belkowitz, M.D., M.P.H., Kathleen Kelly, M.D., M.P.H., Lyse Deus, M.Ed., and Oneith Cadiz, M.D.
In the United States, guns kill more children than car crashes, swimming pools, cancer, or infection. According to recently released data from the CDC, for the first time in history, firearm injuries were the leading cause of death among children in the United States in 2020.
All types of deaths by firearms increased, including suicide, homicide, and unintended shootings. However, homicide represented the most significant rise in firearm deaths.
We have the power to change these alarming statistics and keep kids safe from gun injuries and death. Let's Not Miss Our Moment to #EndGunViolence - Watch on YouTube
If you have guns in your home, store them safely.
Children are safest if there are no guns in the home. But if you have firearms in your home, ensure each gun is stored safely. This act can save the life of a child. The American Academy of Pediatrics website’s instructions on proper gun storage include:
- Keeping the gun unloaded
- Keeping the gun locked
- Storing ammunition separately from the gun
- Keeping ammunition locked
Also, never clean your gun while your child is present.
ASK Day is June 21 and stands for Asking Saves Kids
Even if you do not have a gun in your home, 44% of Americans report living in a home with at least one gun. Also, 48% of those living in a household with a gun report having a child under 18 in the household.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages families to ask friends about firearm safety in their homes. A question as simple as, “Is there an unlocked gun in your house?” can save your child’s life.
While discussing firearms can be uncomfortable, using phrases that focus on your concern for your children can help alleviate tension.
These examples may help you start this life-saving conversation.
- “I’m always worried about my child’s safety. What do you do with the guns in your home?”
- “We saw a campaign online, and I’ve started asking everyone, how do you store the guns in your home?”
- When moving a child into their first apartment at college or elsewhere: “I’ve been concerned about (child’s name)’s safety since they were little; I just wanted to ask, are there guns in the apartment? How do you store it?
Advocating for gun safety in the community
The American Academy of Pediatrics supports gun safety legislation to help address this critical public health issue. They believe common-sense steps, such as banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, can save lives.
You may also decide you want to get involved in protecting our whole community from gun violence by serving as an advocate for firearm safety. Calling your state and federal representatives to urge them to pass new laws is one action you can take.
While the effects of unintended firearm discharge can be deadly, these events can be prevented. Gun safety is essential knowledge for parents who own guns, parents who do not own guns, and anyone who wants to help keep our communities safe.
If you have concerns regarding your child’s safety, mental or physical health, reach out to your pediatrician for support. For more information about how to keep your child safe from injury from guns, call the Injury Free Coalition for Kids, a Program of the Children’s Trust, at 305-243-9080 or visit www.injuryfree.org.