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Gun Safety Precautions in Your Home Before Sleepovers

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

We began this year’s safety articles discussing gun safety in homes because the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) has reported that firearms are now the leading cause of death for U.S. children and teens under the age of 18.

We further discussed that roughly one third of American households have guns in their homes and it is estimated that 4.6 million children live in a household with unlocked, loaded guns. Therefore, it is essential to take the necessary gun safety precautions before a sleepover or playdate, whether you are the host or home visitor.

Before the sleepover and/or play date, there are some pertinent questions and conversations which should take place prior to taking your child to a friend or family member’s house. You should ask them if they have guns at home and what safety processes, they have in place to protect children and young people from accessing them.

You should not be too shy or offensive, the question needs to be asked. You can simply discuss it while talking about the child’s general safety on their visit, such as any food allergies.

Dr. Lois Lee, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Boston Children’s Hospital suggests the conversation can be approached by saying, “I’m so glad that Johnny is coming over to play. He’s really excited. Just want you to know he is allergic to peanuts, so please help him stay away from those. And, by the way, if you’re driving anywhere, just want to make sure that you have enough car seats. And you know Johnny, he is so curious. So I just want to know: do you have your firearms stored in your home?”

This approach focuses the conversation on “shared goals of safety for all children,” she adds. “Nobody wants a child to be injured or hurt on their watch.”

If you do not feel your child will be safe at someone’s home, Lee suggests meeting at a neutral space like a playground or park. As a parent, remember saying “no” to a child for their safety is very acceptable. You should be your child’s advocate at all times.

Also talk with your child about the potential dangers of firearms. They should know guns are very dangerous instruments that can kill or seriously injure another person.

You can bring this subject up, when you hear an unfortunate news story involving gun violence or talking about other safety issues, like why it is important to wear seat belts with your teen driver. Tell them they should have respect for guns and the gun safety rules that should be used at all times. Emphasize to them that a firearm should not be handled without a responsible adult present. Dispel the myth that guns do not kill people, people kill people. While it is the truth, accidental firearm deaths happen way too often involving children and teens in America.

Asking the critical questions about guns in homes before a sleepover or playdate helps you Keep an Eye on Safety for you and your children. It can potentially be a lifesaving conversation!