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Kids and Gun Safety

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Wednesday, December 8th, 2010 | CWK Producer

“As many places as you wanna hide it…they can find it…So, I mean, hiding a gun I don’t think it’s gonna do any good.”

– Lance Miller, father

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Nearly 30 children are injured or killed every day by firearms in the United States and most results from guns owned by the child’s family or friends. Yet a recent national poll by the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital reveals that too many parents never speak with their kids about gun safety: Eighteen percent of gun-owning parents and 52 percent of parents who do not have a gun at home say they have never talked with their kids about gun safety.

Some kids struggle with the concept of guns and violence.

“A real gun is um…um..they’re…real…but they’re not toys.”

“If you shoot them for real…they might hurt somebody and kill somebody…and they’ll go up to heaven and they’ll never come down… even your kitty.”

Older children can learn the safety rules.

“Always act like it’s loaded and never point a gun at anyone…even if it’s fake.”

Yet, gun education alone is not enough. There’s a firearm in almost half of all American homes. Eighty percent of kids know where the family gun is kept… and nearly all of the gun accidents that hurt or kill children happen at home.

“As many places as you wanna hide it…they can find it…So, I mean, hiding a gun I don’t think it’s gonna do any good,” says Lance Miller, a father.

In a child’s world, the line between fun and fatal can get blurred. Experts urge adults to take their role seriously when it comes to defining why and how we protect kids from guns.

“But if they choose to have guns in their home, the need to store them safely…they need to put handguns in a lock box with push button locks so the children can’t get to them. They need to put trigger locks on all rifles and shotguns…and that they should not rely on education alone to keep their kids safe,” says Mary Aitken, M.D. and an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

What We Need To Know

The Children’s Defense Fund 2009 Report titled Protect Children, Not Guns states that the data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 3,184 children and teens died from gunfire in the United States in 2006 — a 6 percent increase from 2005. This means one young life lost every two hours and 45 minutes, almost nine every day, 61 every week.

Of these deaths, 2,225 were homicides, 763 were suicides and 196 were due to an accident or undetermined circumstances. Boys accounted for 2,815 of the deaths; girls for 369 deaths. More than five times as many children and teens ? 17,451 ? suffered non-fatal gun injuries.

According the information provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should realize that a gun in the home is forty-three times more likely to be used to kill a friend or family member than a burglar or other criminal. To compound this problem, depressed pre-teenagers and teenagers commit suicide with guns more frequently than by any other means.

If you choose to have firearms in your home, adhere to these rules for gun safety:

  • Never allow your child access to your gun(s). No matter how much in¬struction you may give him or her, a youngster in the middle years is not mature and responsible enough to handle a potentially lethal weapon.
  • Never keep a loaded gun in the house or the car.
  • Guns and ammunition should be locked away safely in separate locations in the house; make sure children don’t have access to the keys.
  • Guns should be equipped with trigger locks.
  • When using a gun for hunting or target practice, learn how to operate it before ever loading it. Never point the gun at another person, and keep the safety catch in place until you are ready to fire it. Before setting the gun down, always unload it. Do not use alcohol or drugs while you are shooting.

Even if you don’t have guns in your own home, that won’t eliminate your child’s risks. Half of the homes in the United States contain firearms, and more than a third of all accidental shootings of children take place in the homes of their friends, neighbors, or relatives. Talk with the parents of your child’s friends, and find out if they have firearms in their home. If they do, insist that they keep them unloaded, locked up, and inaccessible to children.

Important information to discuss with children includes the following:

  • Risks of gun injuries may exist in places they visit and play.
  • If they see or encounter a gun in a friend’s home or else¬where, they must steer clear of it, and tell you about it.
  • Make sure your children understand that violence on TV and in the movies is not real. They need to be told—and probably reminded again and again—that in real life, children are killed and hurt badly by guns. Al¬though the popular media often romanticize gun use, youngsters must learn that these weapons can be extremely dangerous.

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