Changes to the gun laws require changes to how we protect ourselves, but it also requires changes in how we protect our children. Studies show, having firearms in the home dramatically increases the risk of unintentional shootings, suicide, and homicide.
Last Tuesday, Governor Brian Kemp signed a law relaxing the requirements for Georgia citizens to carry and conceal guns. Under the new law, residents are allowed to carry handguns in public without a license or background check. The law allows a “lawful weapons carrier” to carry a concealed handgun where firearms are permitted without a license from the state. “Lawful weapons carrier” is defined as anyone who is eligible to purchase a firearm. While I am no expert, its easy to predict that this new gun law will likely make people more comfortable around guns by ultimately increasing our exposure to guns on a larger scale throughout the community. Without a license and background requirement, more people will be equipped with guns, and some may let their guards down on how their guns are stored and carried.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearm-related injuries were among the five leading causes of death in 2019 for people ages 1 to 64. Research shows that death by gunshot was the second-highest cause of death in the US in 2016 among children and adolescents, ages 1 to 19. Children will be children, and being a child also means being curious. The American Academy of Pediatrics stated “Unintentional shootings happen to children of all ages. In homes with guns, the likelihood of accidental death by shooting is four times higher.”
In 2021, there were over 2,007 total gun related deaths of children and teens ages 1-19. From March to December 2020, unintended shooting deaths by children started to increase by more than 30%, compared to the same time period in 2019. Whether these numbers are being caused by changes to gun laws, social media trends, or an increase in mere curiosity, we all need to be more intentional when giving children access to guns, in order to minimize the unintended unfortunate outcomes. So, while we may find comfort in easier ways to protect ourselves with the new gun laws, we should not get comfortable when it comes to ways to protect our children from guns.
Many parents and caregivers think their children don’t know where their guns are stored, but research shows most kids are likely to find the hiding place. Statistics show that even young toddlers are capable of finding unlocked guns in the home and are strong enough to pull the trigger.
Here are a few tips on protecting children from unintended access:
- Keep guns out of the reach and out of sight of children by storing them securely.
- Store the gun unloaded.
- Store guns in locked safes.
- Store ammunition in a separate locked container out of the reach and sight of children.
- Do not give your child the passcode or access to the keys to get the gun out.
- Make sure your child understands that it is never okay to handle a gun without a responsible adult’s permission and presence.
- Teach your child to assume a gun is loaded and that they should never touch it, but also never point a gun at someone.
- Answer your child’s curiosity by discussing the pros, cons, and proper control of guns.
- Explain how a gun on television or on a video game is different from a gun in real life to your child.
- If you need to take your gun out of the safe, keep it in your immediate possession and control at all times.
- Provide visitors with a place to store their gun(s) securely (locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition) while they are in your home.
- Be comfortable asking parents and caregivers, about their gun safety habits just as you discuss a child’s food allergy and bedtime routine for your playdate checklists. Ask, “Do you have any guns in your home?”, “Can you tell me how they’re stored?”, “Does your child have the passcode to unlock your safe?”, etc.
The reality is, 1/3 of unintentional shootings of children take place in the homes of their friends, neighbors, or relatives so it is important to make sure your kids are safe when spending time at other homes just as you do when they are in your home. If the other parent(s) do not want to have these conversations, suggest their children come over to your house instead. The new gun laws loosening the requirements to obtain and carry guns are not only limited to Georgia, so parents should be on guard no matter where their child is.