According to a report published in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ March catalogue, most children who use firearms to commit suicide or fall victim to unintentional firearm deaths use weapons found in their home. These firearms are left loaded or unlocked or both. Every year around 500 children are killed and thousands more are injured in accidental shootings.
Handguns may be more dangerous for young children because they’re easier to grasp than rifles. And unlike larger firearms that might be locked away and taken out only for recreational use, some families might have handguns in places that are easier to access because they’re concerned about home invasions.
A study conducted by Northeastern University researcher Matthew Miller and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, revealed that gun deaths among young people could be decreased by up to 32 percent if just 20 percent more gun owners locked up their firearms.
For the study, Miller and his colleagues analysed existing empirical evidence that linked firearm storage to mortality rates among children who live in homes with guns. Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends guns be locked, unloaded, stored separately from ammunition, and inaccessible to children, he says that roughly half of those households leave their guns unlocked.
“Even if 20 percent of parents improve their storage practices you could save hundreds of lives a year,” says Miller.
In 2015, nearly 3,000 people under the age of 20 died by gunfire, either accidentally or by suicide, while 14, 000 young people were treated for injuries, says Miller. In nine out of 10 cases of suicide, the gun used by the young person was from his or her own home.
A modest increase in the number of people who store firearms in their homes safely could help to save the lives of hundreds of children each year.