This column appeared in the June 19 edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 20, 2016) — Too often children die at the hands of their playmates or siblings because of the accessibility of a loaded weapon. While unintentional firearm fatalities are most often accidents, these tragic loses are entirely preventable.
Nearly 1.7 million children in America live in a home with an unlocked and loaded gun. One-third of unintentional firearm deaths claim the lives of people younger than 19 years of age, and nine children or teens are shot every day in a gun incident. Eighty percent of unintentional firearm deaths affecting people ages 15 and younger take place inside a home.
While owning a gun is a civil right of all Americans, gun owners can help prevent these tragedies by assuming the austere responsibility of safekeeping their weapon at all times. Because unintentional injuries are the most common cause of fatality in young people, pediatricians provide counsel to parents on preventive actions to keep children safe from injuries, such as buckling a child in a properly fitted safety seat and wearing a helmet while riding a bike. Gun safety is no different. If you live in a household with where children and guns coexist, follow these safety tips endorsed by pediatricians:
- Store guns unloaded in a safe and locked location, such as a lock box, and out of sight and reach of children and teens.
- Store ammunition for the gun in a different location, out of sight and reach of children and teens.
- When the gun is removed from its secure location, always have the weapon in your line of sight.
- Never rush when returning a gun to its secure location and keep keys in a hidden location.
- Always be mindful and aware of the location of the gun, as well as the location of children playing throughout the house.
One simple action parents can take to address the risk of an unintentional shooting death is having a candid discussion about gun safety with the parent of a child’s playmate. On June 21, parents are encouraged to ASK one simple question to ensure their child’s safety: is there an unlocked gun in your household? Incorporating this question into parent-to-parent dialogue will allow parents to take protective action if they feel their child is at risk. For more information about the ASK Campaign, click here.
The month of June marks National Gun Violence Awareness month. Please do your part by putting your children first and asking the right questions or taking action to protect the safety of children in your household from the mishap of a gun incident.
MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Adams, email@example.com