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The U-M C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health finds that over half of parents who don't own a gun have never talked with their children about gun safety.

Gun Safety for Kids and Youth

What are the statistics about young people and firearm deaths and injuries?
The 2002 edition of Injury Facts from the National Safety Council reports the following statistics [1] :

For more information: Child Trends DataBank has available these teen homicide, suicide and firearm death statistics.

In addition to firearm deaths, we need to look at how many children and young people are hurt by guns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 1997, 2,514 children aged 0-14 were non-fatally injured by guns. In the same year, 30,225 young people aged 15-24 sustained nonfatal firearm injuries. These statistics include suicide attempts and both intentional and accidental shootings [2].

According to the CDC, the rate of firearm deaths among children under age 15 is almost 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized countries combined. American children are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a gun, 11 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun, and nine times more likely to die in a firearm accident than children in these other countries [3].

What do we know about kids and gun accidents and suicides?
When researchers studied the 30,000 accidental gun deaths of Americans of all ages that occurred between 1979-1997, they found that preschoolers aged 0-4 were 17 times more likely to die from a gun accident in the 4 states with the most guns versus the 4 states with the least guns. Likewise, school kids aged 5-14 were over 13 times more at risk of accidental firearm death in the states with high gun ownership rates. The findings indicate that gun availability is associated with accidental death by shooting [4].

Most guns involved in self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries (that is, in suicides and accidents) came either from the victim's home or the home of a friend or relative [5].

Where and how safely do families with kids store their guns?
More than a third (35%) of homes with children—that's 22 million children ages 18 and under in more than 11 million homes—had at least one firearm, found researchers in a RAND-UCLA study [6]. But only 39% of these families keep their firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 43% of these U.S. homes with children and guns reported keeping one or more firearms in an unlocked place and without a trigger lock. Nine percent keep their guns loaded as well as unlocked. This analysis is based on data from 1994 interviews conducted in tens of thousands of households by the National Center for Health Statistics. (See Guns in the Family: Firearm Storage Patterns in U.S. Homes with Children for a fuller report.)

So, what does this mean to me?
If you have kids in your house, and you keep firearms, keep the guns locked and unloaded, with the ammunition locked in a separate location.

Before your child goes to a friend's house, you should ask the friend's parent whether the family has firearms in the house, and how they are stored. This can be part of all the usual things you would discuss before a visit, like allergies, snacks, sunscreen, etc.

For more information on asking these kinds of questions, visit the Asking Saves Kids (ASK) website sponsored by the non-political PAX organization in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

What are the risks for teens?family in living room
Parents of teenagers are less likely to store firearms safely [7].  This is a big concern, since most firearm injuries happen to teens. Teens are at greater risk of attempting suicide, and a suicide attempt with a gun is likely to be deadly.  More than 90% of suicide attempts with a gun are deadly, and teens in homes with firearms are at higher risk for committing suicide [8}.

Are my children at risk if I own a gun?
This is a controversial subject. Many people feel safer when they have a gun at hand. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)* has reviewed the current medical research on the subject and concluded that if you have children, it is safer not to have a gun in your home (see the AAP policy statement for more details).

What if I've taught my kids not to touch a gun if they find one?
A number of studies [9], [10], [11], [12], suggest that even kids who are trained not to touch guns can't resist, and that parents have unrealistic expectations about their kids' behavior around guns. That's why parents are encouraged to keep guns unloaded and locked separately from ammunition , and to ask about guns at the houses where their children play. Here are links to the full text or abstracts of the studies:

For more information on asking other parents these kinds of questions, visit the Asking Saves Kids (ASK) website sponsored by the non-political PAX organization in cooperation with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

How can I keep my child safe from gun injury?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the best way to keep your child or teen safe from gun injury or death, is to never have a gun in your home, especially not a handgun.

For those who know the dangers of guns, but still keep a gun in the home, each of the following four measures helps protect children and teens from accidental firearm injury and suicide [13]:

Other safety measures are:

What can communities do?
The AAP has released a policy statement on Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population. Here is a summary of their recommendations:

What about non-powder guns, BB guns and toy guns?
Whether or not your kids use toy guns, there are some basic facts you should know.

Where can I get more information?
Here are some excellent websites for parents, kids and teens from

Related topics on YourChild:

YourChild: Hunting and Shooting Sports Safety
  Children and Safety

What programs can help with firearm safety?

*The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information on the AAP, please visit


Written and compiled by Kyla Boyse, RN.  Reviewed by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan.

Updated November 2010

U-M Health System Related Sites:
U-M Pediatrics
C.S. Mott Children's Hospital

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