One of the greatest tragedies emergency nurses experience as part of their daily work is treating injuries that could have been prevented. Often times, the children, teenagers and adults brought to the emergency department with accidental gunshot wounds could have been saved from the pain, suffering, and in some cases death, if the owner had eliminated unauthorized access to the firearm and followed gun safety practices. Consider these facts:
- In 1994, approximately 1,600 men, women and children died in accidents involving guns.
- Gun accidents are the fifth-leading cause of accidental death for children aged 14 and under.
- Nearly 40% of gun owners store firearms in a bedroom or closet, versus in a locked case, cabinet or vault.
Safe Children - It's No Accident
- Children need to be educated about guns and prevented from unauthorized use. Even if you don't have a gun in your home, remember that neighbors, friends, or relatives may have one in theirs.
- Take time to tell children about the dangers of playing with guns. Explain the difference between gun violence on television and the real-life consequences of firearm use. One study indicates that few young children can reliably distinguish a toy gun from a real one.
- Teach children the basic elements of gun safety and instruct them on what to do if they find or see a gun. Tell them, "Never play with guns. If you find one, leave it alone and tell a grown-up".
- Guns can be a natural curiosity for children. Repeat the "don't play with guns" message frequently. Reinforce this by quizzing them on what they would do if they found a gun.
- Even if you don't have children at home, involve yourself and invite others to participate in gun safety programs.
- Discuss gun safety with neighbors, friends and relatives. If they own a firearm, encourage them to make gun safety a habit.
Safe Gun Storage - It's No Accident
- Don't dismiss the need to store guns safely. The consequences can cause serious injury or death. Follow these guidelines to keep firearms away from all unauthorized persons.
- Always remove ammunition from guns.
- If a gun is kept in the house for protection, ensure no unauthorized persons have access to the firearm.
- Place ammunition in a locked location, separate from guns. When deciding where to store ammunition, remember to select a secure place that is out of sight and reach of children.
- Secure unloaded firearms with a gun lock, gun alarm or other tamper-proof device which helps prevent unauthorized use and tampering or renders the gun inoperable.
- Store unloaded guns in a locked gun cabinet, safe or locked gun vault. Remember to place a locked storage case where children won't be able to see or find it.
- Keep gun storage keys hidden in a separate location from regularly used keys.
Safe Gun Handling - It's No Accident
- Take responsibility for gun ownership. Learn how to handle a gun safely. One careless act with a firearm can result in a deadly mistake.
- Do not allow untrained or unauthorized persons to handle guns.
- Always handle firearms as if they were loaded.
- Keep guns pointed in a safe direction. Never point a gun at someone. Remember that bullets can ricochet off of or penetrate walls, ceilings, floors, windows and other surfaces and objects.
- Do not allow children, teenagers or adults to play with guns or handle them like toys. Store firearms out of sight and reach so they are inaccessible to unauthorized persons.
- Read all instruction manuals completely before using any firearm and take a gun safety course.