Yet Another Gun Tragedy

Growing up with a dad who is a homicide detective, gun safety was always a normal topic of conversation in my home. According to my father, children are naturally curious, and simply saying “don’t touch” isn’t enough. Every so often, he would let us look at—and even touch—his gun. He would always empty it, and then have my siblings and me put one finger in the chamber to make sure that he didn’t miss anything. He had a strict rule that the barrel should never be facing anyone. “I don’t think that you’d want anyone you love to get hurt, would you?” he would often say. Then he’d lock it away in his room out of our reach and tell us that if we ever wanted to see it again, all we had to do was ask.

You’d think such gun-safety measures would be a no-brainer for parents, but sadly that’s not the case. The latest evidence: Yesterday, a 6-year-old New Jersey boy was accidentally shot and killed by his 4-year-old neighbor while they were playing. According to the town’s police chief, the children were outside the 4-year-old’s home when he went inside, got his dad’s rifle, and shot the 6-year-old. It’s unclear whether he pulled the trigger intentionally or the rifle accidentally discharged.

If this tragedy sounds like an exception, you’re sadly mistaken. On Saturday, a pistol in the hands of a 4-year-old boy in Tennessee went off, killing his aunt, the wife of Wilson County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Fanning. It happened while Fanning was showing off his loaded gun collection. Then there’s the tragic February death of 3-year-old Tmorej Smith, who shot himself, thinking his mother’s pink gun was a toy. These shootings have one thing in common: In every case, a young child had easy access to a loaded weapon that belonged to a family member.

The AAP recommends that all kids’ environments be free of firearms. But if you choose to own a weapon, it’s your responsibility to keep your child safe. Teach him what to do if he sees a gun:

  1. Stop.
  2. Don’t touch.
  3. Leave the area.
  4. Tell an adult.

But don’t stop there. Locking guns in a safety box and storing the ammunition separately could be the difference between life and death. More than 1.5 million children live in households where firearms are kept unlocked and loaded, and 140 kids are killed accidentally by guns every year. Is your child safe?

Take the Parents Gun-Safety Pledge to commit to keeping your child safe.

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