by Deirdre Wilson
Gun violence remains a big issue nationwide in the wake of the December school shootings in Newtown, Conn., and locally following the January shooting of a 13-year-old Roxbury boy on the way to choir practice.
Perhaps the most basic concern for many parents is gun access and safety, particularly for kids who live in or visit homes where guns are stored. The Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) Alliance Campaign Against Violence offers some sobering national statistics:
• Nearly 40 percent of homes with a child under age 18 have a gun.
• Most 5- and 6-year-olds (and one out of four 3- and 4-year-olds) are strong enough to pull the trigger of a handgun.
• More than half of accidental shooting deaths of kids under age 15 occur in a friend’s home.
The MMS advises all parents to introduce their kids to the difference between toy and real guns and to talk about the dangers of real guns. In homes with guns, the MMS says children are safest if:
• guns are stored unloaded and locked in a safe or with a trigger lock;
• bullets are stored and locked away separate from the guns; and
• keys to the firearms and ammunition safes are kept with the owner at all times.
Whether you own a gun or not, you still need to make sure your child will be safe while visiting a home that may have one, the MMS says. Ask neighbors, friends, family and other people whose homes your child will visit whether there’s a gun in the house. The easiest way to bring it up is during a conversation that also addresses other health and safety concerns, such as seat-belt use or allergies your child may have.
The MMS advises parents to keep their children away from homes where there are guns or where they’re not safely stored. While your friends and neighbors might not agree with that stance, you can assure them that it’s in the best interest of your child.
Deirdre Wilson is senior editor of the Boston Parents Paper.