One out of three homes in the U.S. with children has guns. Unfortunately, many of those are not stored properly.
As physicians invested in the care of children in our communities, my colleagues and I wondered what factors contribute to the problem. It turns out that part of the reason for improper storage may be that parents looking for information about firearm storage don’t have access to complete information.
When a parent searches the internet to learn about how to store guns and ammunition, what information do they find?
Gun storage safety basics
Eighty percent of unintentional firearm deaths of children under age 15 occur in a home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides four main gun storage guidelines that can protect against unintentional and/or self-inflicted firearm injury among children:
- Guns are stored unloaded
- Guns are locked
- Ammunition is stored in a locked container
- Ammunition is stored in a location separate from the gun
The only way these guidelines work is if they’re put into practice. Some people may turn to the internet for this information. The problem is that internet searches on topics related to firearm storage yield results that are most often inaccurate and incomplete.
What information is available online about safe gun storage?
We evaluated 10 of the most common search terms related to gun and ammunition storage and identified 87 webpages that mentioned firearm storage.
We reviewed the pages to see if they included any of the four main firearm storage safety tips outlined by the AAP. Our findings were recently published in the journal Injury Prevention.
By far, many of the websites were retail sites designed to sell firearms, safes and other gun products.
Ninety percent of the sites had none of the safety tips, and only 2 percent had all four.
In fact, some websites actually contradicted safe storage recommendations, implying that storing a loaded gun was appropriate.
With such incomplete information available online, it’s not surprising that 43 percent of the homes where a child lives and that have a firearm have unlocked firearms.
What parents can do
If you have firearms in your home, be sure to follow all four storage safety tips. Simply hiding a gun is not enough. If your child is in another home for a visit, play date or child care, be sure to ask the homeowner if they have guns in the home. If they do, be sure they also follow the gun storage safety tips.
- Learn more about firearm safety.
- Learn more about handguns in the home.
- Also on the blog: Confessions of a gun safe mom
Katherine LeFevre Freundlich, MD, is a pediatrician at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Dr. Freundlich graduated from Baylor College of Medicine with High Honor and subsequently completed pediatric residency and chief residency at the University of Michigan. Since completion of her chief residency, she has remained with the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases with appointments in both the Division of Hospital Pediatrics and the Division of General Pediatrics.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.