A horrible tragedy occurred this week in a Paco County, Florida home: a 12-year-old boy shot and killed his 6-year-old brother, shot his 16-year-old brother, and then shot and killed himself. According to police reports, the brothers were cooking when an argument broke out.
Arguments over toys and who gets the front seat are common among siblings, but the easy accessibility of a gun turned this one deadly.
Each year over 17,000 children and teens under age 20 are killed or injured by firearms. On average, 41 young people are shot and 7 killed every day in the United States, making guns the second leading cause of death among youth ages 1 to 19.
Keeping guns away from kids is the best way to save lives and prevent injuries, but the fact remains that too many children live in and visit homes where guns are accessible. About a third of American homes with children have a gun and, of these households, only 39% keep their firearms locked, unloaded and stored separately from ammunition, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Therefore, it shouldn't be too surprising to learn that 60% of child gun deaths take place in a home or on the surrounding property (e.g. driveway, yard).
Many parents keep guns in their homes because they believe it makes them safer. Yet, in doing so, they often underestimate the risks guns pose to their children. Far too many parents think that keeping guns hidden or teaching their children gun safety is enough to keep them safe. But kids are naturally curious. Even if you tell them over and over never to touch a gun, many won’t be able to resist the temptation. Kids are also very good at finding things that adults think are well hidden.
As children get older, they tend to act more impulsively and are more prone to risky behavior. When combined with easy access to a gun, this is a recipe for disaster. Research shows that the risk of suicide increases when adolescents have access to firearms at home. The reason is that the quick availability of a gun makes it easy for a young person to act on their suicidal impulse. And the lethality of the gun makes it much more likely that their suicide attempt will be fatal.
These deaths are preventable. But as long as children have easy access to guns, they are likely to continue. Brady’s ASK and Suicide-Proof Your Home Campaigns provide a common sense approach to preventing gun violence that we all can agree on. Every day, we are seeing changes in attitudes and behavior that are making homes, families and entire communities safer. But there is still more to be done. Find out how you can get involved and help spread our life-saving message, visit http://www.bradycampaign.org/our-work/changing-culture.