Just eight weeks before the tragedy in Newtown, CT, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) called for new community-safety efforts and gun-control legislation. But the buck does not stop on Capitol Hill or the offices of your local school district. It's important for parents to take similar steps in their own homes. Did you know that a 3-year-old has the finger strength to pull the trigger of a gun? That's scary, especially since more than a third of American families own guns, and many of them are stored loaded and unlocked. Firearm-related injuries are one of the top three causes of death in children.
“Young children are curious, and are often unable to remember or follow safety rules,” says Marion Burton, M.D., a past president of the AAP. “Older children and teens naturally tend to be moody and impulsive. When you combine these traits with access to guns, the consequences can be tragic and permanent.” The best way to protect a child is not to own a gun. But if you do, take these safety measures:
Keep the gun unloaded and store separately from ammunition. Place both in locked boxes on a high shelf, out of a child's reach, says Denise Dowd, M.D., co-director of the Center for Childhood Safety at Children's Mercy Hospital, in Kansas City, MO.
Attached a steel safety device to the trigger or hammer so that the gun can't fire.
Consult a dealer about outfitting the gun with a magnetic system that prevents it from going off unless the owner pulls the trigger.
Start talking about gun safety when your child is young. A good time to raise the issue is after your child sees others play with toy guns. Keep it simple: “Never touch a gun—you could hurt yourself or someone else. Get a grown-up right away if you see one.”