Gun safety awareness – talk to your kids
Firearm injuries and violence take the lives of more than 30,000 people every year in the US. Children and youth are killed by guns almost as frequently as by motor vehicles. At HCMC, a leading trauma center in our state, we see firsthand the devastating impact of these injuries and deaths. This June, in conjunction with the city of Minneapolis and the State of Minnesota, we will support Gun Violence Awareness by emphasizing gun safety with our pediatric patients and their families. National Gun Violence Awareness Day is Friday, June 2nd, 2017. The National Safety Council has declared June as National Safety Month.
Children are curious and capable
Did you know that children as young as three years of age can pull the trigger of the majority of commercially available firearms? Children are naturally curious. Studies show that most groups of children who encounter a gun will play with it and many will fire it, even if they have previously received appropriate safety training. Just as we want to safeguard our cleaning supplies, medications, kitchen knives, all gun owners need to take precautions to keep children safe from guns.
Teens are impulsive
Safety around firearms should not be limited to young children. In Minnesota, suicides account for the majority of firearm-related deaths in children and adults. Teens by nature are impulsive and reactive. Research shows that for many suicide victims it takes less than 5 minutes from decision to action. Those that take their own life by firearm are less likely than others to have shown signs of depression or suicidal thought beforehand. Because firearms are so lethal, preventing teens who may be at risk of suicide from accessing guns during a suicidal moment can save lives.
Guns are prevalent everywhere
It is estimated that 40% of Minnesota families own a gun. More than 250,000 Minnesotans are licensed to conceal and carry a firearm. Even if you decide not to have guns in your home, it is still important that all parents talk with their children about gun safety because they may come across an unsecured firearm when visiting family or friends.
Here are a few tips to keep your child safe from firearms:
- Always store guns in a locked location out of reach of children. A lock box or gun safe are two options for securely storing guns.
- When feasible, store ammunition in a completely separate location, which is locked and out of reach of children.
- Use trigger or cable locks on all stored guns.
- Ask about safe firearm storage in the homes where your child visits or plays
- Educate your children about gun safety
- If you have a teen that suffers from depression or may be suicidal, in your home, consider temporary removal of any firearms.
For more on keeping kids safe around guns, visit our website.
Leslie King-Schultz, MD, MPH is a pediatrician at HCMC, Pediatric Clinic on our Minneapolis campus and our Brooklyn Park Clinic. She also cares for inpatient pediatrics in our hospital. She has experience and education in public health with a focus on community health and health disparities. She is board certified in General Pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics and is an Affiliate Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota.