Children and Firearms
Parents, professionals and many others are concerned about the increasing numbers of children and adolescents killed by firearms. The following statistics were taken from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Center to Prevent Hand Gun Violence:
- Firearm injuries are the second leading cause of death for young people, 10 to 24 years of age. For every child killed four are wounded.
- In 1994, nearly 90% of homicide victims 15 to 19 are killed with a firearm.
- Of violent deaths in schools, 77% are caused by firearms.
- Approximately 50% of all homes in the United States contain a firearm, and over 50% of handguns in homes are loaded.
- In 1996, more than 1,300 children aged 10-19 committed suicide with firearms.
We cannot gun-proof our children and adolescents. Children are playful and active. Adolescents are curious and impulsive. Such healthy traits when mixed with guns can cause death.
The best way to protect children against gun violence is to remove all guns from the home. If guns are kept in the home, there will always be dangers. The following actions are crucial to lessen the dangers:
- Store all firearms unloaded and uncocked in a securely locked container. Only the parents should know where the container is located
- Store the guns and ammunition in separate locked locations
- For a revolver, place a padlock around the top strap of the weapon to prevent the cylinder from closing, or use a trigger lock; for a pistol, use a trigger lock
- When handling or cleaning a gun, never leave it unattended, even for a moment; it should be in your view at all times
Even if parents don't own a gun, they should check with parents at other places where their children play, to make sure safety precautions are followed. In a study of accidental handgun shootings of children under 16, nearly 40% of the shootings occurred in the homes of friends and relatives. The tragedies occurred most often when children were left unsupervised.
When youngsters use alcohol and also have a gun available, the risk for violence rapidly increases. In a youth suicide study, victims who used firearms were about five times more likely to have been drinking than those who used other means. In a study of firearm-associated murders among family members, almost 90% of the offenders and victims had used alcohol or drugs before the killings.
The average American child witnesses an increasing number of acts of violence each day on TV, in movies, and through computer games. Most involve firearms. Children often imitate what they see, and are more aggressive after extensive viewing of violence on TV, in movies and videos, and/or playing violent computer video or arcade games. Parents should help protect their children from the effects of media violence. For example, they can watch TV, movies, and videos with children; ration TV; and disapprove of the violent episodes in front of the children, stressing the belief that such behavior is not the best way to resolve a problem.
Children and adolescents with emotional or behavioral problems may be more likely than other children to use guns, against themselves or others. Parents who are concerned that their child is too aggressive or might have an emotional disorder may wish to seek an evaluation by a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
More information about gun safety issues and guidelines is available from the
Center to Prevent Handgun Violence
1225 I Street, N.W., Suite 1100
Washington, D.C. 20005
or at their website www.handguncontrol.org.