By Sheila Ferguson
Gun safety in the home is a matter that concerns us all. More and more children are suffering traumatic injuries and death from an unsecured or unlocked fire arm left in the home. Thus, it is the responsibility of every adult gun owner to secure the weapons in their homes in order to protect the lives of children.

Statistical Facts

The likelihood of a child finding a loaded gun in the home is extremely high. Statistics suggest that in the U.S., firearms are the No. 1 cause of death for children and teens. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 4,752 children died from homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings in 2021. An estimated 4.6 million kids live in a home with unlocked and loaded guns, according to the AAP.

A Friend’s Story

Years ago, co-worker and friend Mimi Shearer shared an eerie story about the guns her parents kept at home. They made no secret about the guns or where they were stashed. They were told never to bother them because they were kept handy for protection in case of a break-in. However, Mimi and her two siblings could not resist playing with the guns whenever their parents went out for the evening.

Mimi recalls their fun, pointing the guns at one another, rolling over furniture, and pretending to engage in make-believe shootouts. With tears in her eyes, she said, “This was our chance to run wild brandishing weapons, playing pretend to shoot, bang-bang! My parents would have been horrified if one of us had been killed or maimed for life.”

Mimi’s story is a common one that fortunately ended without anyone being harmed. Public health researchers, however, stress that death or severe injury is highly likely when kids find guns in the home.

Shearer’s parents missed the realities that:

  • It is natural for children to ramble in drawers and closets to discover what hidden treasures can be found in the home;
  • When children know that there is an unlocked gun in the home their curiosity will drive them to locate it
  • A child’s feelings or secrecy in possessing a gun can feel delightful and empowering; and
  • They will wait for unsupervised moments to play with the gun, and show it to other children and pull the trigger.

Safety Tips

Here are some of the life-saving safety tips for parents who own guns. Always:

  • Do not underestimate the likelihood that your child could find your gun.
  • Store your gun in a locked case.
  • Store guns and ammunition separately.
  • Never keep a gun loaded.
  • Never leave guns visible and within reach of children and teens.
  • Use a gun lock.
  • Ask friends and family if they own firearms, and how they are stored before allowing your child to visit or spend the night in their homes.

Finally, arm yourself with critical knowledge about guns when you buy one. To build knowledge, consider the following:

  • Learn about safe gun handling through participation in a gun education concealed carry course provided by a state-certified trainer
  • Carry insurance coverage because injuring someone can be costly.
  • Maintain regular practice of safe gun handling and marksmanship.

Closing Notes

Finally, parents who own guns must be aware that keeping loaded and unlocked guns in the home leads to child injury and death. Without proper knowledge, parents can unknowingly cause their child’s death or injury or a sibling murder of other siblings or neighborhood playmates. Unsafe gun storage is also a gateway to the Department of Children and Family Services opening a case of child abuse and neglect and possible parental incarceration when the State of Ohio picks up cases. It can also mean being sued by family, friends, and neighbors for damages, injuries, and negligent homicide.

Note: Ohio does not have any “safe storage” laws that specifically require firearms to be kept under lock and key when not in use. However, leaving firearms where children can access them could be an offense under a number of criminal statutes. So please, let personal responsibility, loving care and a commitment to safety guide your actions.

References:

Hundreds of young children killed playing with guns, CDC reports – CBS News.
How to protect kids from guns in the home: Life Kit: NPR

What You Should Know About Ohio Firearm Owner Rights and Responsibilities (ohiobar.org)

Dr. Sheila Ferguson is a regular contributor to The Cleveland Observer. At TCO she enjoys writing on personal development and well being. Co-authored works with Dr. Toni C. King on African American Women’s mental health. Dr. Sheila Ferguson’s works have been published by the Demeter Press, National Women’s Studies Journal; The Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders; The Journal of Multicultural Social Work; The Journal of Women and Therapy, and National Women’s Studies.

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