From Your Child’s First Playdate to High School Graduation, There is a Question Every Parent Should ASK.

By: Kathleen Kelly, MD, MPH Candidate with Lyse Deus, Julie Belkowitz, MD, MPH, and Oneith Cadiz, MD

Children are naturally curious. Infants and toddlers explore their surroundings by rattling, throwing, and gnawing on objects. As children get older, they start to explore their environments in many ways – a new hobby, a new sports, a new friend – but their curiosity remains. As they enter adolescence, their interests, dreams, talents, and those around them help shape their developing identity.

As children explore new areas with excitement and wonder, it is important to keep their safety in mind, even while in the homes of friends and family. In these different places, children focus on the fun and not on the danger of household objects. While at home, parents can keep environments safe by covering outlets for infants, locking doors with access to cleaning supplies and pill cabinets, removing access to or locking doors with alcohol, and keeping firearms safely stored, unloaded and locked. However, when children leave their parents’ homes, the safety of the new location, including access to firearms, is often unknown.

ASK Day, on June 21st, stands for Asking Saves Kids. It is an opportunity at the start of summer to remind parents and caregivers of the importance of ASKing about guns in the home to prevent unintentional firearm injuries. A question as simple as, “Is there an unlocked gun in your house?” can save your child’s life.

Whether a toddler or a teenager, one way to keep your child safe while away from home is to always ASK about firearms in the places where they spend their time. A 2020 Gallup survey revealed that  44 percent of Americans have at least one gun at home, and 48 percent of those living in a household with a gun report having a child under 18. A recent study from the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that just over one-third of all firearm injuries seen in the emergency department are unintentional injuries.

Talking about firearms can be difficult. Using phrases that focus on your concern for your children can help alleviate tension. Another phrasing to ASK about firearm safety in friends’ homes can include:

  • “I’m always worried about my child’s safety. What do you do with the guns in your home?”
  • “We saw a campaign online, and I’ve started asking everyone, how do you store the guns in your home?”
  • For moving a child into their first apartment at college or elsewhere: “I’ve been concerned about (child’s name)’s safety since they were little, I just wanted to ASK, are there guns in the apartment? How do you store it?”

While the effects of unintended firearm discharge can be deadly, these events can be prevented. Information on the safe storage of guns is available on the American Academy of Pediatrics website. Gun safety is important knowledge for parents who own guns, parents who do not own guns, and anyone who spends time around children. For those who own guns, safe storage of guns is key and includes:

  • Keeping the gun unloaded
  • Keeping the gun locked
  • Storing ammunition separately from the gun
  • Keeping ammunition locked

Firearms are common in American homes. This ASK Day, June 21st, start summer with a question – not a bang. Focusing on your concern for your child can help reduce some tension when discussing firearms with friends and family. Children should remain curious about their surroundings and have the opportunity to keep exploring them safely when caregivers remember to ASK, “Is there an unlocked gun in your house?”

For more information about how to keep your child safe, call the Injury Free Coalition for Kids, a program of the Children’s Trust, at 305-243-9080 or visit www.injuryfree.org.