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Guns in Your Homes and Others (excerpt)
Boston Parents' Paper, 8/1/1999

Excerpted from Boston Parents' Paper.

Buying a gun on the street isn't the only way to get hold of a firearm. Most kids know if their parents keep guns in the home, where the gun is kept and - if it's locked - where the key is, Bernstein says. "If it's unlocked, they often know where the ammunition is."

Between 1990 and 1995, two-thirds of the kids who died from unintentional shootings died in a home, he says.

While it might be difficult to control kids' actions outside the home, there's no excuse for kids to be allowed access to their parents' weapons, says Jennifer Koehn, a spokesperson for the National Safety Council in Washington. "There are measures you can take to reduce your risk."

First, all firearms should be kept unloaded and stored separately from the ammunition. Both the gun and the ammunition should be securely locked. Then, think of creative ways to keep the keys away from children. That might mean storing the keys outside the home or keeping them with you.

Store weapons in cabinets and containers that are not self-contained. In other words, children should not be able to pick up the container and carry it off to school.

Another critical step is talking to your children about guns. "You cannot not talk to your child," says Judy Shaw at Children's Hospital in Boston. "Pretty soon, your young kid will be out in the world, with other people, and in other people's homes."

Taking into account that 40 percent of American homes have guns and that a third of those guns are unlocked and loaded (according to statistics provided by Stop Handgun Violence), the reality is that your child, at some point, will probably play in a home that contains a firearm.

To that end, pediatricians and activists agree that parents should not allow their children to play at friends' homes unless they have asked the other parents whether there is a gun in the home and how it is stored.

"Parents need to be asking other parents if they have guns," Shaw says. "Because, unfortunately, any small child who picks up a gun, no matter how much you talk to him or her about it, is going to put a finger on the trigger and click it."

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