According to a new study, an alarming number of U.S. teens report easy access to guns at home, even when they are at increased risk of suicide.
The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, analyzed data from a national survey of 10,123 U.S. adolescents, ages 13-18. Overall, one-third of teens reported living in a home with a gun. Of those, 41 percent said they had easy access and the ability to shoot that firearm. Even more disturbing, the percentage was the same among teens with a history of mental illness or suicidal behavior.
More than 2,000 young people in the U.S. ages 10 to 19 died due to suicide in 2012. It is the second leading cause of death among young people, and nearly half involve the use of a gun.
Strong evidence suggests that having a gun in the home significantly increases the risk of suicide among adolescents. One study found that 82 percent of firearm suicides among youth 18 and under used a firearm belonging to a family member, usually a parent.
For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that pediatricians counsel parents during visits about the dangers of allowing kids access to guns in the home. Safe gun storage is also widely recommended by law enforcement, public officials, and even some guns rights groups.
However, what this study shows is that the message is not getting through to parents. But just telling parents about the risks guns pose to children is not enough. They need practical advice for keeping their kids safe.
Through our ASK and Suicide-Proof Your Home Campaigns, Brady is doing just that – providing simple steps all parents can take to protect their children from gun injury. And these simple steps are having a big impact. In communities across the country, we are seeing changes in attitudes and behavior that are helping to prevent countless tragedies.