Gun Safety – Steps you can take today to protect your children

As I grieve for the families of the victims and survivors of the school shootings that continue to threaten our children’s safety, my thoughts turn to my own little boys. How can I help keep them and their classmates safe? Is there anything we can do? I don’t have the answers to these big questions, but it does make me think about things I can do in my own community to keep our children safer.

As a mom and as a pediatric emergency room nurse I know that it isn’t just school settings that we need to address when it comes to gun awareness and safety. Along with handguns and rifles, we also need to apply safety concerns to pellet and BB guns, and we need to start taking action.

We talked with Jessica Mitchell, Safe Kids Pima County coordinator, who shared the following about what parents can do to help prevent gun incidents with children:

“Did you know about two-thirds of students who used guns in violent acts at school got those guns from their home or at a relative’s house?

The first thing you can do is make sure that if you keep a gun in your home, it is kept unloaded and locked away. Make sure that the ammunition is stored separately from the gun in a locked container and make sure the keys are hidden away, too. If the gun is not in its lock box make sure it’s in your line of sight.

You can pick up gun locks at TMC Family Support Services located next to the Desert Cradle.”

The other thing we must do is talk to the adults in homes where our children spend time ‑ whether it’s with the grandparents, aunts and uncles, family friends or a play date – about the status of guns in the home. Don’t make assumptions about whether someone has a gun, or whether it is unloaded and locked away. Don’t assume the children in the house don’t know when the guns are kept – ask.

I know it feels uncomfortable, but what’s worse ‑ a few seconds of discomfort or the unthinkable?

How to ask the parent or guardian of your child’s play date whether there is a gun risk in their house

This would be so much easier if it was commonplace to ask on a first play date, so let’s make it commonplace. Be brave. Ask.

Offer information on the gun status at your house when children come to visit:

“Hey, we’re so excited for Lily to visit. I just want to check that she doesn’t have any food allergies and to assure you that while we have guns in our house they are not loaded and are in a locked gun safe that the kids can’t access. I know that it can be a concern especially given how curious kids are”

Prior to the first play date or if there is a new adult in the home, ask:
“Lucas is looking forward to hanging out with Omar after school today. It feels a little uncomfortable to ask this, but do you have unlocked guns in your house? Kids can be so curious even when we warn them about not messing around with guns.” If there are guns in the house, ask if they are stored unloaded and locked away where kids have no access. Remember to ask if a new adult joins the family or is staying. Whether it is grandpa visiting for an extended time or mom or dad has a new partner.

Uncomfortable asking in person or over the phone? Text 
Sandwich the question in between the usual questions, “Hi Tom, this is Melissa, Jack’s mom. Jack’s really looking forward to coming over after school today. What time should I pick him up? Also, weird question I know, but I’m trying to get in the practice of asking this given recent events. Do you have guns in your house? Just want to check that they’re unloaded and locked away from the ammunition. Thx”

Blame your pediatrician
Or at least deflect the origin of the query to your pediatrician. Our pediatrician asks us at every annual check-up whether there are guns in the house and if they are unloaded and locked away. Say something like, “Our pediatrician suggested that we ask about guns, even BB guns, just to check that they’re unloaded and locked away.”

Don’t assume that girls aren’t curious about guns 
Ask.

Don’t stop asking once your child is old enough to walk home alone or whether you will be at the house or not
Gun accidents happen whether the child is 4 or 13. Children can be impetuous when little and even more so when teens.

Undoubtedly, there is much more to be done, but this…this we can do today.

Melissa

Melissa HodgesMelissa Hodges is a pediatric emergency room RN and mom to two young boys. Melissa has been at Tucson Medical Center for ten years. She is a knitting ninja apprentice, who makes a mean chili and enjoys spending time with her family and friends in beautiful Tucson, Arizona.


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