A 4-year-old found a gun at home and accidentally shot himself in the head, resulting in death. A 2-year-old girl was shot in her pelvis by her 4-year-old brother after finding a loaded gun in the backseat of a car. These are just two examples of the devastating causes of child trauma we see at Texas Children’s Hospital that are a direct consequence of poor firearm safety.

Firearm injuries are a major public health concern. Aside from the recent increase in mass shootings and homicides caused by firearm violence, the less-publicized danger to children is often accidental injury. Children are a vulnerable population due to their curiosity and impulsivity, and ease of access to household firearms greatly increases their risk of injury. Among homes with children and firearms, over 40 percent have at least one unlocked firearm. It’s no surprise that children with access to a gun accidentally shoot themselves or other children. An accessible gun in the home increases the likelihood of children following through with a suicide, since these attempts are usually impulsive actions. Finally, with the recent increase in school shootings, the concern of troubled children bringing guns from home to school has heightened.

Did you know?

Accidental firearm injures were four times more common in Texas than in any other state in 2014.

Houston has the highest rate of firearm injures in Texas.

Studies show children know about firearms “hidden” by parents.

At Texas Children’s Hospital, more than half of the gun-related injures we see in children are accidental.

In Texas, it is illegal to store a gun where children can have access to it.

For all of the reasons above, there should be a focus on safe gun storage in households with children to prevent any injuries or tragedies.

What can I do?

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises the complete removal of guns from homes with children, if feasible.

If you use guns for defense, place them in a rapid-code access or finger-print based safe.

If you use guns for recreation, apply a trigger lock, place them into a combination-based safe and store your ammunition separately.

Guns should be locked at all times and stored unloaded, whenever possible. “Hiding” your firearm is not good enough.

Take all the precautions possible in order to prevent firearm injuries in children. Be a responsible firearm owner and keep them away and out of sight from children.

Dr. Naik-Mathuria is attending surgeon and trauma medical director at Texas Children’s Hospital