By Sophia Young, Research Associate
As the holiday season approaches, things feel a bit different this year. Our homes may not be as packed with relatives and friends as they were in past years, as we modify our festivities as a result of the coronavirus.
With so many changes and additional precautions to stay healthy this year, there's one thing we can’t forget when it comes to our safety: ensuring we and our loved ones store guns safely and securely! It is how we can end family fire.
What is "Family Fire?"
Every day, eight children and teens are unintentionally injured or killed as a result of family fire, or a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun found in the home. On top of that, an additional 63 Americans — including 12 veterans — die every day on average from gun suicide. In many cases, family fire tragedies can be prevented.
We know that over half of all U.S. gun owners report that they do not store all of their guns safely, and 4.6 million children live in homes with access to an unlocked or unsupervised gun. Among youth, 3 out of 4 gun suicides involve a gun that was stored loaded and unlocked.
We also know that these tragedies can be prevented by a straightforward solution: safe firearm storage.
Studies suggest that storing firearms locked and unloaded can be an effective measure to prevent impulsive suicidal acts: gun owners who keep their firearms locked up or unloaded are at least 60% less likely to die from gun suicide than gun owners who store their firearms unlocked and/or loaded. Research also shows that if parents kept the guns in their homes locked, several hundred suicides and unintentional shooting deaths among children and adolescents could be prevented each year.
Delaying someone’s access to a gun by even a few moments, by storing guns: unloaded, locked, and separately from ammunition—can give them a second chance at life.— EndFamilyFire (@EndFamilyFire) September 18, 2020
Practice #SafeStorage to #EndFamilyFire pic.twitter.com/cDooF1wKi9
Always practice safe storage, especially with guests in town
In 75% of youth firearm suicides for which the gun storage method could be identified, the gun was stored loaded and unlocked. Incidents of family fire – including suicide – can be prevented. #SafeStorage is key to giving our loved ones a chance at a longer life.#EndFamilyFire pic.twitter.com/IYc7TOUzMa— EndFamilyFire (@EndFamilyFire) October 11, 2020
While it’s always important to properly store your firearms, it is even more essential this year, as routines have changed and kids have been cooped up in the home more than usual. It’s likely that they’re already searching the top shelves of closets for any hidden gifts — and we all know kids are curious, and they find everything! Be sure to store your guns:
- unloaded; and
- separate from ammunition.
This way, any firearms will be inaccessible to any little ones who may be roaming around. From gun locks to safes, there’s a range of effective solutions best suited for both the gun and your home.
Don’t be afraid to remind your loved ones to practice safe storage as well
This holiday season, in addition to taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, check in with one another and ask "is there an unlocked gun in your home?" to help normalize the question. Make sure all guns are safely stored, unloaded, and locked. Asking the question will spark a conversation and could save lives, including your child’s.
Although 60% of Americans are not traveling to visit family for the holidays this year, 48 million people are expected to travel by car to their destinations and 2.4 million people are predicted to fly to their destinations. Whether you are spending the holidays at a relative’s house or staying home this year, it’s important to check in with your loved ones.
Don’t hesitate to have tough conversations about access to unlocked and/or loaded guns in the home, especially if you think that someone is at risk of harming themselves.
Given the increases in mental health struggles as a result of COVID-19 and the record number of guns sold in the U.S. this year, it is more important than ever to talk to friends and family members about gun safety. These conversations have the power to prevent incidents of family fire and save lives.
While conversations around gun safety can sometimes take a political and divisive turn, they don’t have to!
Consider beginning the conversation by asking your loved ones what storage methods they practice. Knowing that all the firearms in the house are stored safely will ease your mind, allowing you and your family to sit back and enjoy the holiday season whether spending it together or apart this year.
Kids are naturally curious, and they can find anything — including a gun you thought was “hidden.”— EndFamilyFire (@EndFamilyFire) November 13, 2020
Be sure to store all firearms locked, unloaded, separate from ammo, and inaccessible to children. #EndFamilyFirepic.twitter.com/9nKG7YTR4Q
Continue the conversation about safe storage after the holidays
Don't just ask about safe storage today. Ask tomorrow, too. And the next day! Families grow and circumstances will continue to change as the pandemic progresses. Ensuring safe storage and keeping our homes and families safe is a constant check-in process. Help put an end to family fire by educating friends, family, and members of your community on responsible gun ownership. Learn more tips from our End Family Fire program or visit familyfire.org.