For many parents, the thought of sending children to school nowadays is terrifying. With so much violence happening in the world today, it seems like “home” is the only place where your kids are truly safe. Yet according to a new study published in Pediatrics, even home may not be safe enough for some kids.
According to the study, over 40 percent of American homes where children live with their parents have firearms. And the shocking part? Only 1 in 3 of the parents living in those households follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation for gun safety: that all firearms be stored unloaded and locked up, ideally with ammunition stored in a separate locked location.
The study, which focused on gun safety and mental illness, found that millions of U.S. children live in homes where firearms are left loaded, unlocked or both. What’s more, many of these parents—whether storing weapons securely or not—are refusing to waive their right to bear arms, even when their child suffers from diagnosed depression or is at risk of harming themselves.
One may assume that homes with a child who had been diagnosed with depression or other risk factors may lock up their firearms at a higher rate than parents with children without any risk factors, but you'd be wrong. The numbers are pretty much the same.
To give you an example of how serious the problem has become, researchers shared mortality data from 2015. The report showed that suicide was the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 to 17. Firearms were to blame for 40 percent of those deaths.
“Indeed, for homes with children and guns, the odds are roughly 2 to 1 that firearms are not stored in accordance with recommendations by the AAP, regardless of whether children in the home have a history of self harm risk factors,” writes John Scott from the Department of Health Sciences at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues.
“Given the prevalence of household firearms in the United States, our findings suggest that millions of U.S. children are placed at substantially higher risk of fatal firearm injury, especially suicide, than would be the case were parents to follow guideline first put forward by the AAP more than a quarter century ago.”
So, where do we go from here? How many more children need to die because a parent couldn’t follow the rules? If you’re going to own a gun, be responsible and keep it locked up—your children's lives depend on it.