Keep your guns and your children safe

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A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study says gunshots are the second leading cause of death for children, behind only car accidents.

After a high school student killed several classmates a few years ago, doctors at Seattle Children's Hospital went into action. Their goal isn't to take guns away, but rather to make sure they are safe in the home.

The first gun lockbox giveaway at Seattle's Outdoor Emporium was standing room-only.

"Individuals will come in, and they have to go through a gun safety training course before they get their free gun vault from children's hospital," Outdoor Emporium manager Leon Moore said.

Seattle Children's Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Del Beccaro and his team started the program about four years ago. In 18 events, they have given away more than 5,000 lockboxes, 5,000 cable locks and 500 trigger locks.

"If you own a car, you wear a seat belt. If you own a boat, you should be wearing a life jacket, and if you ride a bike, you should be wearing a helmet," Del Beccaro said. "If you own a gun, when it's not in use at the home, you should lock it up."

More than 1,200 children have died from gunshots in a little over a year. Del Beccaro says locking guns up reduces the risk of accidental or suicidal shootings by toddlers or teens by more than 80%.

"Just delaying them by having something locked will often be enough that they will kind of come down from the rollercoaster, so it's really about impulse control," Del Beccaro said.

Gun safety experts also say firearms should be stored unloaded, with ammunition in another place.

Del Beccaro says it's too soon to measure the program's impact, but it is spreading to more communities.

Families that get the lockboxes have reported overwhelmingly that they are using them at home.

Seattle Children's Hospital has expanded the gun safety device giveaway to its outpatient clinics.

They have also put together an outline for other children's hospitals to run the program. A children's hospital in Atlanta is already on board.

REPORT #2659

BACKGROUND: Millions of children live in homes with guns, and many of these weapons are stored loaded, unlocked, or both. Guns lead to thousands of deaths and injuries among children every year. While the number of households with guns is declining, there are still an estimated 300 million guns in the United States. Every year, nearly 1,300 children die from guns and many more are seriously injured. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes the best way to prevent gun-related injuries to children is to remove guns from the home. However, if you choose to keep a gun in the house, it is important that it is unloaded and locked, and the ammunition is stored and locked in a separate location. One in three families with children have at least one gun in the house. It is estimated that there are more than 22 million children living in homes with guns. Most of the victims of unintentional shootings are boys and they are usually shot by a friend or relative, especially a brother. Nearly 40 percent of all unintentional shooting deaths among children 11-14 years of age occur in the home of a friend. (Source:

THE GUN SAFETY CONVERSATION: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that physicians discuss gun safety with parents, but very few actually do, citing lack of time and fear of offending patients. Recent laws in Florida and other states that seek to curb doctors' ability to counsel patients about firearms have added another layer of complexity. Proponents of those laws argue that physicians have no training in firearms and therefore aren't qualified to talk about them. Yet studies have shown that physician counseling can reduce firearm injuries and death. Representatives from the AAP and emergency physician groups point out that it doesn't take a lot of training to recommend that guns be kept away from kids. Kimberly J. Lombard, trauma center injury prevention coordinator at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota, agrees that gun safety can be an uncomfortable topic for physicians but one many parents may appreciate if approached properly. Emergency providers are uniquely qualified to have such conversations, and their words likely carry more weight because they actually see and treat gun injuries. (Source:

POTENTIALLY LIFE-SAVING DIFFERENCE: Of households with both guns and children at home, more than 20 percent reported storing them both loaded and unlocked which is the least-safe way. An additional 50 percent stored them either loaded or unlocked. Dr. Michael Monuteaux, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, said, "We need to communicate to parents that storing guns in a way that makes them inaccessible to children can reduce the number of children who die year after year, especially from suicide." Last year, in the journal Injury Prevention, Dr. Rowhani-Rahbar and other researchers reported on the results of two community-based firearm safety events in Washington State. They found that presenting people with information and offering to sell them trigger guards or lockboxes resulted in an increase of about 14 percent of households that stored all guns locked and nine percent more that stored them unloaded. (Source: