Deaths and injuries of young children from firearms are not accidental: they can be prevented.

This is the first of a series of occasional blog articles about firearms.

A True story*

One morning a preteen boy had a friend over to watch TV and play games. The boy’s dad was at work but his mom was home. At some point the mom told the boys that she needed to run to the store and would return quickly. As soon as she left. the boy took his friend to his parents’ bedroom to show him a handgun hidden in a shoebox in the back of a high shelf in the closet.

When the mom returned home, she found her son’s friend dead from a gunshot wound. The boy said it had been an accident - they didn't know the gun was loaded. The boy was arrested and murder charges were going to be brought against him in adult court. A plea agreement resulted in a much lesser charge in juvenile court and the boy was sent to an out-of-state treatment facility.

One mother buried her son and another lost custody of her son.

The Data

• Hundreds of children under age 15 die each year due to unintentional injuries from firearms in our country.

• Thousands more are injured by firearms and many suffer permanent injuries such as paralysis and brain damage.

• In addition many children use guns to commit suicide.

• Most “accidental” deaths and injuries occur when children are playing with or showing weapons to friends. The easy availability of firearms in homes is a contributing factor.

• At least one third of homes have firearms in them - but only 39% of families keep their firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition.

• A study of gun deaths of preschools (ages 0-4) found they were 17 times more likely to die from a gun accident in states with the most guns.

What patents need to know. A play date in the home of your child's friends can become deadly.

What parents can do to protect children from death and injury.

• If you have children living or visiting your home, it is safer not to have a gun in your home.

• Before allowing your child to play in a friend’s house, ask the friend’s parent if there are guns in the house and how they are stored.

• Find out if parents who are gun owners have taught their children about gun safety and practice good gun safety themselves.

• If you choose to own guns, don’t keep them where children might find them.

• Use basic gun safety precautions recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

    Lock it up: Always keep the gun unloaded and locked up.

    Separate the parts. Lock and store the bullets in a separate place.

    Hide the keys to the locked boxes so kids can’t find them.

Sources include:

• Accidental Firearms Fact Sheet, National Center for Child Death Review

• Guns in the Family: Firearm Storage Patterns in U.S. Homes with Children

• Gun Safety for Kids and Youth

• Gun Safety: Keeping Children Safe

* This incident is documented in court records, but the details are modified because this can and has happened many times in our nation.