Parenting

4 Steps to Protect Kids from Gun Accidents

No matter what your feelings are about gun ownership and the laws concerning firearms, parents who own guns have a responsibility to keep their children safe. One Florida mom is facing legal ramifications for her failure to live up to this responsibility.

Thirty-one-year-old Jamie Gilt was driving on a Florida state road when her four-year-old son shot her in the back. Police Captain Gator DeLoach told reporters that the gun “slid just under the seat… slid to the floorboards…” and within reach of the preschooler. While reaching for a toy, DeLoach says the boy then “picked [the gun] up and accidentally fired it”.

In addition to a gunshot wound in the back, the trauma induced upon her son, and the physical damages to her vehicle, Gilt now faces a second-degree misdemeanor charge that could result in minor jail time, probation, and a fine. While Gilt was legally in possession of the firearm, she is accused of breaking another law, one which concerns her child’s access to the handgun. “It is of paramount importance to make certain that guns do not fall into the hands of children… It was very clear that there was a violation here,” said Captain DeLoach.

Jamie Gilt was quite verbal in her support of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, according to her Facebook accounts. Less than 24 hours before this tragic shooting Gilt commented, “… Even my 4-year-old gets jacked up to target shoot the .22.”

The legal possession of guns is not in question here. Law enforcement officials have made it clear that Jamie Gilt had every right to carry her firearm with her on the day of this shooting. But, as parents, how do we reconcile having guns in the home or in vehicles with making our children’s safety the top priority—even more so than our own right to possess firearms? We need to take the time to analyze what we know about firearms and take intentional steps to teach our children to handle them safely.

The statistics are staggering (taken from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia):

  • Nearly 1,500 children younger than 18 years of age die from shootings every year.
  • Most of the victims of unintentional shootings are boys. They are usually shot by a friend or relative, especially a brother.
  • Half of all unintentional shooting deaths among children occur at home, and almost half occur in the home of a friend or relative.
  • People who report “firearm access” are at twice the risk of homicide and more than three times the risk of suicide compared to those who do not own or have access to firearms.

So, what can we do to allow firearms and children to peacefully coexist?

1. Use a Childproof Safety Lock and a Loading Indicator

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia indicates that “31 percent of accidental deaths caused by firearms might be prevented with the addition of [these]” steps.

Next Page: How to Talk to Your Kids about Guns

2. Purchase a Gun Safe

Our family keeps a hunting rifle in our home. While my husband rarely hunts, he insists on keeping it in the master bedroom in case an intruder were to break into our home. Recently our two-year-old decided his new favorite hide-and-seek destination was our bedroom closet—inches from where our gun resides. We moved it to another closet but we both knew it was just a matter of time before our curious toddler discovered that closet. So, off to the sporting goods store we went to purchase a gun safe. That was the best $60 we have ever spent. Knowing that our gun is locked up gives us great peace of mind when we have curious little friends in our home. Keeping the gun was a non-negotiable for our family, but so was a gun safe.

3. Store Ammunition Separately from Firearms

Unless you live inside a shooting range, there really is not a reason to keep a loaded firearm unlocked and within a child’s reach. Research shows that “73 percent of children under age 10 know where their parents keep their firearms and 36 percent admitted handling the weapons.” If your child were to ever get his hands on your firearm without your dedicated supervision, it is imperative that you not leave your guns loaded. Storing a loaded firearm means that you could be loading the barrel of your child’s murder weapon.

4. Talk to Your Kids about Guns

Despite all of these safety precautions, the best way to keep your kids safe is to teach them how to safely handle the firearms in your home. The National Rifle Association offers the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program, which teaches kids to “stop, don’t touch, run away and tell a grown up” if they find a gun. Field and Stream offers a 5-step gun safety program for kids. Project Safe Child also offers a video for kids about gun safety that includes a pledge to stick to their gun safety tips.

We all have a duty to protect our families. For many of us that means keeping a firearm in our homes. The power that comes with gun ownership requires more work if children are in our homes. 1,500 children dying from shootings each year is too many. A mom getting shot by her preschooler is a completely preventable accident.

Which steps will you take today?