In 2001, 72 children ages 14 and under died from unintentional firearm-related
injuries, and an estimated 1,400 were treated in emergency rooms in 2002. (An
unintentional firearm death/injury occurs when the person firing the gun does
not intend to harm anyone.) Nearly all childhood unintentional shooting deaths
occur in or around the home. Fifty percent occur in the home of the victim and
nearly 40% occur in the home of a friend or relative.
Canadian Statistics: In 1997, seven children ages 14 and under died from unintentional firearm-related injuries.
Educating children about gun safety plays an important role in keeping them safe from firearms.
If you do not own a gun, talk with your children about the risk of gun injury outside the home in places where they may play or visit. Tell your children to stay clear of guns when they are at their friends' homes and to tell a grown-up immediately if they see one. Talk to the parents of your children's friends to find out if they keep a gun in the home. If they do, verify that it is kept unloaded and locked away where children can't see or touch it.
- Teach your children to never touch or play with a gun.
- Whether you own a gun or not, explain to your children that guns are dangerous and that they should never touch them.
- If you have a gun in your home, make sure it is kept unloaded and locked away at all times. Lock up and store ammunition in a separate location. Make sure children do not have access to the keys. Contact your local police department and ask for advice on safe storage and gunlocks.
- Because children are curious by nature and will eagerly explore their environment, the safest thing to do is not keep a gun at home. Handguns pose a special risk because they are easier for children to pick up and shoot, and they are overwhelmingly involved in most suicides, homicides and unintentional shooting deaths and injuries.
Safety Flash Cards
Create flash cards with various pictures of safe and unsafe items. Cut out pictures from magazines and paste them on index cards or poster board. (For example, have a picture of a gun, ammunition, a doll and a ball.) Scatter the pictures around a room and have your children find them.
Once they have located the pictures, use the "Safety Basics" section above as a guide for talking to your children about the dangers of guns. Make sure your children know what to do if they find these items and that they understand that guns can seriously injure or kill people.
There is a difference between television violence and real-life violence. Help your children separate make-believe from real life. Tell your children that gun violence on TV and in the movies is not real. Explain that in real life children can be hurt by guns. Children learn gradually and often forget, so periodically repeat the message to "stay away from guns." Ask your children what they think about a TV program that contains violence. Talk about how violence or bad decisions have real consequences and can hurt people. Together, track the newspaper or local TV coverage of any incident in your community involving firearms injury or death. Discuss what happened with your children. Let your children know what they should do if they are ever in a situation which involves guns. Let them know they can talk to you.
Data Sources: Consumer Federation of America, Health Canada, National SAFE KIDS Campaign®, Safe Kids Canada.