The safest home for a child is a home without a gun. However, if a gun is in present in the home of a child, the gun should be stored unloaded and locked, with the ammunition locked separately, so that a child cannot access the gun.
More than 1.5 million children in the United States live in a home with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm. Studies have shown that storing household guns unloaded and locked reduces the risk of unintentional injury and suicide for children and adolescents.
Pediatricians play a key role in injury prevention by providing anticipatory guidance to parents to help minimize the risk of injury in the child’s everyday environment. In controlled studies, individuals who received physician counseling were more likely to report the adoption of 1 or more safe gun-storage practices.
Counseling parents on firearm ownership and safe storage practices is no different than counseling for other products or injury risks such as seat belt use or parental tobacco use and serves the same purpose – to mitigate risk of injury to children in the environments in which they live and play. Anticipatory guidance is a major component of well-child care and injury-visits and cover multiple topics including child passenger safety, drowning prevention, parental tobacco use, and developmental milestones.