Four out of ten U.S. adults say they live in a household with a gun.¹ Even if you don’t own a gun, you (or your kids) know someone who does. Grownups hiding their guns isn’t enough. If you have children living in your household, or you babysit sometimes, or your kids visit anyone else’s home, it’s important to follow safety guidelines to keep everyone safe.
Gun Safety for Kids: Firearm Safety at Home
For help with this gun safety for kids guide, we consulted Matt Seifer, owner and instructor of Guardian Security Services & Training. Mr. Seifer has over 30 years of firearm safety training and is certified as a New York State Division Of Criminal Justice Service Security Firearms Instructor and an expert Criminal Defense Investigator for the county, state, and federal criminal courts of New York State.
Gun safety for kids
How to talk to kids about guns
It might feel awkward, but talking to your child about guns and gun safety is important. Seifer advises that children will be far less curious about guns and more likely to follow safety rules by removing the mystery surrounding guns.
There are some basic principles to keep in mind when talking to kids about guns and gun safety. Here’s what they should remember if they happen upon a firearm:
- STOP: This first step is crucial. Stopping allows the child the time they need to remember the rest of the safety instructions.
- Don’t touch: A firearm that is not touched or disturbed won’t be fired and endanger your child or other people.
- Run away: This removes the temptation to touch the firearm. It also reduces risk of another person accidentally shoot them.
- Tell a grown-up: Children should seek a trustworthy adult, neighbor, relative, or teacher if a parent or guardian is unavailable.
Additionally, ensure children understand the difference between a toy gun and a real gun and between "pretend" and real life. Better yet, teach them to stay away from all guns, whether they look real or not.
Some pistols and other types of firearms have designs or paint jobs that can make them look like toys. And even some toys, like air rifles, paintball guns, BB guns, and pellet guns, can cause serious injury if a child isn’t properly supervised.
If your child has suicidal thoughts, a mental illness prone to suicidal thoughts, or is taking medication that may cause suicidal thoughts, remove all firearms from your home immediately.
How to store guns safely
While talking to your kids is crucial, sometimes kids are kids. Curiosity mixed with brains that aren’t fully developed can make even the most well-behaved kids disobey their parents and disregard the gun talk.
That means that you need to go to extra lengths to keep your firearms out of the hands of tots, kids, and teens. Guns are the number one cause of death in children 1 to 19 years old.²
“If you have a gun in your home, the degree of a child's safety rests solely on the parents and gun owner,” said Seifer.
Proper storage is part of responsible gun ownership. Here are some basic gun safety tips for storage:
- Store your guns unloaded.
- Storing firearms in a gun safe is ideal. Trigger locks or barrel locks are the next best thing to prevent your firearm from being fired by a child.
- When traveling with a gun, use a car gun safe.
- Keep ammunition securely stored (ideally in a different location from the gun) where a child or any other unauthorized person cannot reach it.
- Ensure visitors know that firearms must be safely stored at your home. Remember this particularly during hunting season, when people are potentially more likely to have firearms in their vehicles.
- Help your child's grandparents and other relatives store their firearms properly.
The best gun safes and gun locks have combinations or fingerprint readers instead of key locks. Keys are too easy for children to swipe and use. Here are some of the best gun safes on the market.
Additional gun safety tips
If you own a firearm, it is important to take gun safety education classes so that you know how to handle a firearm safely. This is particularly important when it comes to households with children. Gun safety education can help prevent adults from accidentally firing their weapon.
- Pew Research Center, Katherine Schaeffer “Key Facts About Americans and Guns,” September 13, 2021. Accessed Jul 18, 2022.
- The New England Journal of Medicine, “Current Causes of Death in Children and Adolescents in the United States,” May 19, 2022. Accessed Jul 18, 2022.