Just like many Americans, I cannot stop thinking about the recent school shootings in Newtown and I continue to see the faces of the victims, despite the fact that I have stopped watching any media coverage as it is just too difficult.
But, with every 5, 6 and 7 year old child I see, I am reminded of the fragility of life. I am also reminded about gun safety and the need to teach parents that the safest home for children and teens is one without guns.
I will start this off admitting that I am not a hunter or a gun owner. Although I am the parent of 3 sons, while they hunt, they would not be considered active hunters. Like many of our friends, we did not have the alerts on our calendars set for the beginning of dove or deer season, and the only turkey they have hunted is in the grocery store.
We do not own guns and I am not comfortable around guns. I guess my children are not gun enthusiasts either and need more education. My youngest son has 12 stitches in his brow from a scoping accident on Thanksgiving Day several years ago. This accident occurred while he with his big brothers shooting skeet at a friend's farm. That phone call alone was scary enough for me. Mom there has been an accident followed by iPhone pictures of his injury. Thankfully we know a friendly plastic surgeon who stitches at home on holidays!
I see no need for guns to be kept at home. If parents do have guns they need to be locked in a gun safe! Despite this recommendation, according to the AAP, 38% of American households own guns, and in households with children under the age of 18, many guns remained unlocked. The presence of guns in the home is known to increase the risk of death from suicide or homicide, so why do parents not worry?
I also know that teens, especially teenage boys who have any history of anger issues, depression or mental illness DO NOT need to have a gun, even a locked up gun, in the home. Unfortunately, I have had patients commit suicide using a locked up gun.
Adolescents are impulsive, do not always think clearly or see long term implications for their actions. If there is a gun in the house, especially one with ammunition readily available, an impulsive teen may use that gun to harm themselves or others. In certain situations I have counseled parents to remove any guns, even those that are locked, from the home.
Long-term consequences from short term decisions may be tragic. If you do have guns in the home make sure they are locked and unloaded. Hide the key as well and buy ammunition on your way to hunt. Better yet, if you have children, don't keep any guns in the house.