Poor Gun Safety Kills Children Every Day

The topic of guns has sparked political debate and controversy for decades. Gun violence has skyrocketed since the onset of the pandemic, claiming over 8,000 American lives as of June of this year. In major cities, homicides spiked by 30% in 2020 when compared to 2019. Though news of mass shootings, drive-bys and armed robberies have recently flooded our living rooms, another form of gun violence remains unspoken about, taking its victims quietly while no one is watching.   

The United States sees four times more accidental gun deaths than other countries of similar income, with an average of 430 per year. In 2020, 369 children died from accidental gun deaths, an uptick of 30% from 2019. The majority of victims have been male, and playing with guns contributed to over 28% of the fatalities. Not realizing the gun was loaded contributed to 17.2 %, hunting contributed to 13.8 %, and alcohol played a role in roughly 25% of the shootings.  

Between 2010 and 2014, 25 Oregonians died due to the unintentional shooting of firearms. According to the Oregonian, Benton County was listed as number 25 in the top 30 Oregon counties with the highest firearm death rates, with an average of 7.8 deaths per year out of 100,000. Linn County ranked number 20 with an average of 10.57 firearm deaths every year.  

Young people die every day due to preventable gun accidents, and the key to saving lives begins with gun safety education.  

Gun Safety Essentials 

One-third of U.S. children live in a home with a gun, and 4.6 million reside in homes with an unsecured, loaded gun.  

You might say to yourself, “We don’t have any guns in our home. Therefore, my child is safe.” Unfortunately, that is not necessarily true. Children can easily cross paths with a gun at the home of a friend or relative, in the park, or even in schools if there are no metal detectors or other preventative measures.  

In a video conducted by far-right youtuber Joey Salads, a realistic-looking prop gun was placed on a playground as a social experiment to test children’s reactions. While the children were supervised and in no real danger, the results of the experiment were alarming. Assuming the prop gun was a toy, as many children do, several of them picked up the pistol, brandished the weapon, and pulled the trigger. Even more shocking, one boy’s mother put her fingers around the trigger, and then pointed the weapon at herself and the person sitting next to her. If the gun were real and loaded, the outcome could have been devastating.   

Four Steps Every Child Should Know  

When teaching children about gun safety, four recommended steps should be taught in response to finding a gun.  

  1. STOP.  
  2. Do not touch.  
  3. Walk away.  
  4. Tell an adult. 

The National Rifle Association created this cartoon video that plays out those steps. While the video, originally created in the 90s, has sparked controversy over the years, it is easy for children to follow and includes a song they can quickly memorize.   

Another YouTuber who goes by Saberspark has made a video mocking this NRA attempt at gun safety.  

Proper Gun Storage   

Research shows that over 50% of firearm owners do not store their gun properly. Furthermore, over 50% of Oregonians are registered gun owners, ranking Oregon in the top 16 states for highest gun ownership. Safe storage of firearms is imperative whenever children are present in your home. Even if you do not have children living with you, keep in mind friends or family that may bring their children over.   

According to a 2005 study, unintentional gun deaths dropped by 23% when guns were securely stored and made inaccessible to children. When storing your firearm, be sure to:   

  • Store the gun in a locked case with the key on your person at all times  
  • Store the gun and magazine unloaded, storing and locking ammunition separately.  
  • Never store firearms in accessible locations such as under the bed or in a dresser drawer.  
  • If you have small children, store your gun in a high location such as the top of a bookcase where children cannot reach.  

If you bring your firearm on a camping trip or somewhere other than your home, you can store your weapon in a portable, locking safe like these.  

Gun-Handling Tips for Adults   

68% of Americans do not own a gun, and a 2007 study found that over 30% of adults have never shot a gun. If you are not a gun owner and have never fired one before, chances are you have limited knowledge on how to safely handle a gun if you had to.  

What if your child is holding a gun and you need to take it away from them? As shown in the video with the staged prop gun in the park, a well-meaning mother unintentionally placed herself, her son, and a bystander in harm’s way with how she handled the pistol. Some basic safety tips for gun handling include:   

  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded, even if you are certain it is not.  
  • Never point the gun at anything you would not want to kill or destroy. Always point the gun down and away from all people and body parts.  
  • Never put your finger on the trigger unless you are about to fire the weapon. Always place your trigger finger straight and safely away from the trigger.  
  • Always treat the gun as if the safety is off, as it could malfunction. 

For more tips on gun safety education for kids, visit Safe Kids Worldwide.  

By: Rebekah Harcrow