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Study Finds Parents with Kids at Risk for Self-Harm Storing Firearms Improperly

Nearly two-thirds of American gun-owning parents are not locking up or unloading their guns.

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In the wake of the recent and tragic school shooting in Parkland that has many concerned about how to keep kids safe in schools, a new study shows that firearms endanger children’s safety in their own homes as well. The study, published this month in the journal Pediatrics, found that only one-third of all gun-owning households had properly stored firearms. More concerningly, the remaining two-thirds of gun-owning households allowed children easier access to firearms, even if children in the home were known to have mental health issues related to self-harm.

The study titled “Firearm Storage in Homes With Children With Self-Harm Risk Factors”, sought to build on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) knowledge regarding child and adolescent suicide, the second leading cause of death in children aged 10 to 17-years-old, 40 percent of which are firearms related. In order to understand child mental health risk as it relates to access to firearms, researchers looked at data from a 2015 survey of 3,949 adults in the U.S.. Survey participants were not only asked about parenthood status,  gun ownership, and how guns in the home were stored, but also if children in the home had “attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention-deficit disorder, depression, and mental health conditions other than depression.”

Researchers discovered that just over 40 percent of adults who identified as parents (still living with and raising their kids) owned at least one gun. And, in fact, parents were more likely to own guns than non-parents — 42 percent as opposed to 35 percent. However, nearly two-thirds of these gun-owning moms and dads failed to take basic safety measures, including ensuring guns are locked up and unloaded when not in use. Most disturbingly, parental gun-ownership and poor unsafe gun storage practices remained consistent between parents of children with a history of mental health issues connected to self-harm and those with neurotypical kids. Meaning that a child’s risk of self-harm did not change unsafe gun storage practices.

Many would argue that keeping guns locked up and unloaded is unnecessary so long as you are properly training your kids in gun safety but the numbers show this idea to be almost entirely untrue, as young children often fail to retain the information that was taught to them. Furthermore, that argument is moot if mental health issues are motivating a child to find a gun to end their own life. The fact is that properly storing firearms might save a child from accidentally, or even intentionally, ending their own life or someone else’s.