It’s utterly heartbreaking to hear the news of yet another child dying while possibly playing with a gun. It’s a story that’s repeated all too often. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, on average, 2,806 people, 19 or younger, are shot unintentionally every year. The Nationwide Children’s Center for Injury Research and Policy tries to dispel some of the myths we seem to inherently believe. First some facts.
According to the GBI, at least 15 children died between 2013 and May of 2016 from accidental shootings. Already this year there have been several incidents of accidental shootings nationwide involving young children. In Chowchilla, California, a 1-year-old was fatally shot by his older sister. Two children last month were shot by their parents while cleaning their weapons, and a 6-year-old was accidentally shot by an 11-year-old. In Missouri a 10-year-old girl was killed accidentally with a gun that wasn’t properly stored. And the list according to Gun Violence Archive, gets longer.
There are more than 200 million guns in our country and more American homes have guns than dogs. One in three families with children have at least one gun in the home and there are more than 22 million children living in homes with guns.
Most of the victims of unintentional shootings are boys, usually shot by a friend or relative, many times a brother. Half of all unintentional shooting deaths among children occur at home, and almost half occur in the home of a friend or relative.
Now for the myths.
Most parents think their children don’t know where guns are hidden in the home. Again, the Nationwide Children’s Center for Injury Research and Policy, says eight in 10 first graders know where their parents’ guns are located. And if you think young children are not capable of firing a gun, think again. Three-year-old’s are strong enough to pull the trigger of most guns. Parents also believe their children know the difference between real and toy guns, but few children younger than 8-years-old can tell the difference.
And maybe the most important myth to dispel.
Parents often believe their child wouldn’t touch a gun because “he knows better.” Don’t bank on it. Studies have shown that most children will handle a gun if they find one — even if they have been taught not to.
So what can parents do? The easiest, most complete answer is to remove guns from the home. If that’s not practical, it should be kept unloaded, locked and out of reach of children. There are gun locks and lock boxes, and when using either, store the keys or combinations away from children.
Even when visiting family and friends, ask if they have a gun in the home and if they do, make sure it is unloaded and locked away. Children are inquisitive creatures. They seek out what’s hidden and most parents would be surprised by what their children can find. It’s best not to invite tragedy. We live in a free society where guns are an accepted part. We have to do our part to and handle them properly.