Preventing Childhood Gun and Shooting Accidents

Girl playing with handgun
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You can't safely avoid the topic of childhood gun and shooting accidents, whether your family owns a firearm or not. These accidents highlight the importance of learning about gun safety and discussing gun safety with your pediatrician and your children. Learn the steps you must take to prevent potentially fatal accidents.

Gun and Shooting Accident Statistics for Children

According to the NCHS Vital Statistics System, there were 85 unintentional firearm deaths in children under the age of 18 in the U.S. in 2017.

Putting a face on a tragedy makes it more meaningful than just looking at the numbers. Examples of gun and shooting accidents involving children include:

  • A 4-year-old in East Orange, New Jersey was unintentionally shot in the head and killed by his 6-year-old brother while playing with his mother's gun.
  • A 4-year-old in Philadelphia died after she unintentionally shot herself in the face with a gun she found in a bedroom of her home.

Most gun and shooting accidents involve children who find unsecured, loaded guns around the house or in the family car.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement says, "The absence of guns from children's homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents." However, many families have firearms at home and gun ownership has not decreased in recent years.

Gun Safety Advice for Parents

Learning about gun safety is important to help prevent these types of gun and shooting accidents. Unfortunately, many parents don't store their guns safely, even when they have young kids in the home. The AAP notes that these measures can reduce unintentional injury and suicide for children and teenagers by 70 percent.

A safe or lockbox is a good place to store your unloaded guns and your ammunition. A trigger lock can also provide extra security when you store your unloaded guns in a safe or lockbox.

Home Gun Safety Steps

To protect children from gun and shooting accidents, the typical gun safety advice that you will get from your pediatrician includes that you:

  • Keep your guns locked.
  • Keep your guns unloaded.
  • Keep your ammunition locked.
  • Keep your ammunition in a separate area from your gun.
  • Keep the keys and combinations to the locked areas hidden.

As with other types of child safety, having multiple layers of protection is the best way to protect children. You want to prevent them from accidentally finding a loaded gun, or finding an unloaded gun and ammunition and loading it themselves. Otherwise, they may end up accidentally shooting themselves, a family member, or a friend.

Discuss Gun Safety With Your Child

Even if you do not have guns in your home, don't count on your children simply knowing what to do if they find a gun elsewhere. Much to their parent's surprise, many kids who find a gun will handle it. Many will even pull the trigger, being unsure if the gun is real or a toy.

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Article Sources

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fatal Injury Reports, National, Regional and State, 1981 - 2017. Updated January 18, 2019.

  2. N.J. boy, 4, shot by 6-year-old brother dies, officials say. Published Jun 26, 2016.

  3. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Sources: Mom hid circumstances of daughter's shooting death. Updated June 25, 2016.

  4. Dowd MD, Sege RD. Firearm-related injuries affecting the pediatric population. Pediatrics. 2012;130(5):e1416-23. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-2481

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics. Guns in the Home. Updated June 5, 2018.