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Is There a Gun Where Your Child Plays?

The lack of dialogue between parents about the presence of guns in the home is made more surprising in light of the extreme level of vigilance seen by American parents in relation to other potential dangers.  This is not a nation that takes child safety lightly.

According to the Center to Prevent Youth Violence many unintentional injuries of children and teens result from access to firearms in the home:
•    90% of accidental shootings involving children are linked to an easy-to-find, loaded handgun in the house.
•    88% of children who are injured or killed in unintentional shootings are shot in their own homes or in the homes of relatives or friends.
•    An average of 8 kids and teens are killed by firearms every day and 42 additional children and teens are seriously injured.
•    In 2011, 2886 children and teens ages 0-19 were treated in emergency rooms for unintentional gunshot wounds.
•    In 78% of accidental shooting deaths of children under 15, the child was shot by another person. In these cases, the person was almost always a friend or family member.

The New York Times found that accidental child shooting deaths occur at twice the rate that the records indicate, and powerfully describes these shootings as the “collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.”

Given the statistics that make guns the second leading cause of death in young people, it is no surprise that the American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that “the absence of guns from homes and communities is the most effective measure to prevent suicide, homicide, and unintentional injuries to children and adolescents.”

Empowering Parents to Talk to Other Parents About Guns

In response to the numerous tragic accidents involving children and firearms, movements have sprung up to address the widespread reluctance of parents to address this danger with other parents.

The Center to Prevent Youth Violence, in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics campaign, ASK – Asking Saves Kids – encourages parents to ask the question: “Is there a gun where my child plays?” 

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(Image reproduced with permission from The Centre to Prevent Youth Violence)


The founder of Gun Safe Mom, Missy Carson Smith, seeks to help parents overcome their reluctance by encouraging them to “unlock the conversation”, making it part of a checklist of general safety concerns that are commonly discussed when organising a playdate. The goal of her campaign is “to make the gun question as common as asking about food allergies, swimming pools and video game limits.”

The advice is good. The fact that it needs to be given depresses me greatly. And while for me, it is a complete no-brainer that my children will not be permitted to visit a home where guns are not stored in the safest conditions possible, my preference is to keep my kids as far away from firearms – however the parents report they are stored - as possible.

In a country that is infected with a gun culture that leaves me feeling a combination of outrage and despair, this is not an easy line to hold.

I have always taken a firm stance on guns. My kids are not even allowed to own Nerf guns (although I will admit that the tiny guns found in Lego and Playmobil have slipped through on occasion). As a parent now residing in the United States, my attempt to shield my children from toy guns seems almost comical in the face of the threat that is posed by the widespread availability of the real thing.

I will continue signing the petitions, making the phone calls to Washington, and donating funds to groups working for sane laws. My children will continue to participate in drills at school to deal with the potential occurrence of another Newtown mass shooting. And from here on in, I am going to begin to follow the advice of ASK and Gun Safe Mom because I do not want a child of mine to become another victim - collateral damage – of America’s pathological gun culture. 

Image from freedigitalphotos.net