Unintentional Firearm Injury Prevention, Children Ages Birth to 19 Years

Each year in New York State (NYS), 210 children ages 19 years and younger are treated at a hospital because of an unintentional firearm injury, 75 are injured severely enough to be hospitalized. Two children in this age group are killed each year in an unintentional firearm incident. A gun kept in the home is 43 times more likely to be used to kill someone that the family knows than to kill someone in self-defense.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing unintentional firearm injuries.

What is the best way to protect my child from unintentional firearm injuries?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the best way to prevent gun-related injuries and death in children and teens is to remove guns from homes.

Why are children at risk to be unintentionally injured from guns?

Few children under age eight can tell the difference between real and toy guns or fully understand that playing with a gun might cause serious injury or death. Most children as young as three years old are strong enough to pull the trigger of many handguns.

If I choose to have a gun in my home, what steps can I take to make sure my child is safe?

  • Keep guns locked and unloaded, and store ammunition locked in a separate spot.
  • Disassembling firearms before storing them may provide extra protection against unintentional use.
  • Hide the keys to firearm storage locations where your child is unable to find or reach them. Use a trigger lock, cable lock, lock box, or gun safe to secure your firearm.

Where can I get the supplies to safely store my firearm?

Project ChildSafe (a national firearm safety program) gives out free firearm safety kits through local law enforcement agencies. Each kit contains a cable-style gun-locking device, lock installment instructions, and a safety booklet. A list of police departments in New York State that give out these kits can be found on their website Project ChildSafe Law Enforcement Partners

What should I teach my child about firearm safety?

Teach your child:

  • The dangers of guns and to stay away from them.
  • To tell an adult immediately if they find a gun or to call 911 if no adult is available.
  • That if a friend offers to show them a gun or wants to play with a gun, they should say no and call you right away.

What other steps can I take to keep my child safe from gun-related injuries?

  • Talk to the parents of your child's friends to find out if they keep a gun in the home. Ask about where and how they keep the gun and ammunition, and use that information to decide whether you will let your child play at that home. The safest thing to do is to not allow your child to play in places where guns are not safely stored.
  • Supervise your child. Unintentional shootings often occur when children are unsupervised, out of school, on weekends, and during summer and holiday vacations. It is impossible to watch your child every minute of every day, but setting rules and knowing what he or she is up to are important parts of keeping your child safe.

Where can I find more information about unintentional firearm injuries?