is there a gun in the house?
Firearms are all around us. Be safe.
It can be feel like an awkward and uncomfortable question. I mean, you’re just getting to know a new mom, and your kids get along great, and now you’ve moved to the ‘next level’. From park date to home playdate. And you want it to go well- which makes it worse. But don’t let that stop from asking a potentially life-saving question- “is there a gun in the house?”.
The statistics are sobering: Each year, there are approximately 7,500 child hospitalizations and 500 in-hospital deaths in the U.S. due to injuries sustained from guns. Half of all unintentional shooting deaths among children occur at home; more than a third take place in the home of a friend or relative.
According to a 2013 report, “United States Gunshot Violence—Disturbing Trends,” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), those states that have a higher percentage of household firearm ownership “also tend to have higher proportions of childhood gunshot wounds, especially those occurring in the home.” This doesn’t bode well for us, where gun ownership surpasses the national average. Nearly half of all homeowners in Louisiana own guns.
The state has received an F from the national Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which has rated the state’s gun laws among the weakest in the country. Our residents are nearly twice as likely to be shot to death as the average American. In 2013, Louisiana had the second highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states; 886 people died from firearm injuries in our state that year.
We’ve also been given that F because there are many security measures that the state does not require in a resident’s pursuit of firearms. Among those are: no backgrounds checks are needed prior to transferring a firearm between private, unlicensed parties; there is no limit on the number of firearms that can be purchased at one time; and there is no waiting period on the purchase of firearms. And (like many other states), Louisiana has no law that holds adults criminally responsible if they fail to store their firearms safely.
Stephen Champlin, M.D., an OB/Gyn with East Jefferson General Hospital and father of an 18 and 15 year old, says that “sometimes with people, it may be ‘out of sight out of mind.’ But a gun can be a curiosity for a child. You need to know where their guns are kept. Are they locked up, or just under someone’s pillow? A gun should always be kept in a safe, unloaded, with a lock on the trigger.”
The doctor grew up hunting and says he loves guns—“They’re part of our heritage”—yet he never takes them for granted. He takes his children target shooting with rifles, and being around guns is “very normal,” he says, adding that, “like with everything else in life, it’s a lack of knowledge that gets us into trouble.”
This summer, the State legislature passed a bill that might help our kids have a better understanding of the power—and danger—of firearms. Act 400, signed into law on July 1, authorizes firearm accident prevention and safety instruction for elementary school students. The bill initially was paired with a required curriculum provided by the NRA. The instruction is now optional, and schools can also choose to use materials other than those from the NRA.
According to Pew Research, more than one-third of households with children younger than 12 years old have a gun in the house. Toddlers and preschoolers who don’t know the inherent risks with guns are especially at risk of accidental shootings. So, too, are young teens, reports the AAP, probably because they are more apt to show off with their friends. Whether your child is a tot or teen, make sure any firearms you own are locked up properly. And be sure to ask parents of their friends, “Is there a gun in your house?”
playing it safe
- If your child is going to play or hang out at a home where he hasn’t been before, ask if there is a gun in that home.
- If the answer is yes, ask how the gun is stored. It should be stored in a locked location and unloaded. Ammunition should be locked up separately.
- If you are not comfortable with the answers, you should invite the other child to play at your house instead.
-from the AAP & the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence