The holidays are here, and to celebrate, many will be visiting homes of loved ones. Parents and guardians often have a list of questions they ask before their children visit other homes, whether about pets in the house, allergies, or internet supervision. Swapna Kudtarkar, MD, a pediatrician with Dignity Health Medical Group — Inland Empire, asks parents to add another question to their safety checklist: “Is there an unlocked gun in your home?”
It’s a simple question, but it could save a child’s life. Firearm-related injuries are now the leading cause of death for US children and teens ages 1 to 18. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 13% of households with guns contain at least 1 firearm that is unlocked and loaded, or stored alongside ammunition.
Approaching this topic can feel uncomfortable. Dr. Kudtarkar suggests acknowledging the awkwardness.
“Avoid confrontation by helping the other party understand it’s a safety concern,” says Dr. Kudtarkar. “Asking about the status of firearms in the home can be asked as part of a string of safety questions.”
Try these conversation starters:
- “Hello! Jack is so excited for tomorrow’s holiday party. I wanted to let you know that he has a nut allergy so I packed a snack for him. Also, I always ask if there are any unlocked guns in the home.”
- “Hi Dad! We’re excited to see you soon. I know you usually keep your gun in your garage. Since Jack is getting into everything these days, I wanted to double check that it is locked up and stored separately from the ammunition.”
- “Hi there, can’t wait for tomorrow’s dinner party. My kid is pretty curious. Before we come over, I have to ask, what do you do about your gun?”
Asking this question shouldn’t be limited to the holiday season. Ask relatives, host parents, playdate parents and anyone who’s home your child is visiting any time of the year. For more information and resources to help start the conversation, check out Asking Saves Kids.