Firearm safety seems obvious: No gun in the home equals a small chance that a child will be hurt or killed by one.

But alarming statistics show that education about firearm safety is critical. About one-third of U.S. homes have firearms. Every two hours a child is killed with a gun in a homicide, suicide or unintentionally. A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a friend or family member than a criminal. Meanwhile, depressed youths use guns more than any other means to commit suicide.

While the best safety measure is not to own a gun, families should follow safety rules if they do. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups recommend the following:

  • Lock up guns and ammunition separately and make sure young people do not have access to keys or combination locks.

  • Do not keep loaded guns in the house or car.

  • Fit guns with trigger locks.

  • Remove guns from the home of youths with mood disorders, substance abuse problems or a history of suicide attempts.

  • Teach children about the risks of guns, to steer clear of firearms when encountered and to inform their parents. Note that gun safety education does not prevent children and adolescents from playing with guns when they have access to them.

  • Discuss the difference between real life and television/movies, explaining that people can be killed and badly injured by guns.

  • Ask the parents of your child’s friends if they have firearms, how they store them and whether they are accessible to children. If they are not safely stored, have the children play at your house.