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Teach and Practice Gun Safety for Your Family's Sake

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Whether or not you own firearms, knowing basic gun safety is important for keeping your family from harm. Learning the basic practices of gun safety around the home is just as important for the gun-shy as it is for the gun enthusiast. Here's a brief overview that you can share with your family.

If you do keep firearms in the home, the first principle of defending your family is not to keep your guns ready to fire, but to keep your guns safely locked, stored, hidden and out of reach. If guns or ammunition are readily visible and accessible in your home, your family and strangers alike are in danger of injury or death, so take these steps seriously.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health says a third of American families with children under 18 keep firearms at home, and many of these firearms are accessible. One 2016 study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis shows that about half of kids spend time in homes that have guns, but less than 13% of parents ask other parents about their firearms. The prevalence of firearms combined with a lack of communication is a recipe for disaster, so talk to the parents of your kids’ playmates to find out if and how they practice gun safety.

Education is key to preventing accidents. Teach your kids to never touch a gun or other firearms-related materials without your explicit approval, whether they're at home or anywhere else. If they encounter a gun, ammunition, a gun safe at a friend's house or anyone talking about guns, teach your kids to leave the situation immediately and tell you or another trusted adult about it, and not to return until you instruct them that it's safe.

If you have guns, take the opportunity to teach your kids hands-on safety and shooting skills whenever you think they’re ready. It’s important to demystify firearms so that your children aren’t curious when they encounter guns. If you don’t have guns or don’t like guns, teach your kids to respect the distinction between the guns in movies and video games and the guns in real life. “Gun accidents kill hundreds of kids each year, often due to their curiosity and feelings of invincibility,” says Marc Anidjar, attorney and co-founder of Anidjar & Levine.

Many new guns come with gun locks, which are usually a vise-like device or a thick cable that physically prevents the gun from functioning by obstructing the trigger or slide. Gun dealers also sell locks if your gun didn't come with one, and some local municipalities and law enforcement agencies offer them for free. Always lock your guns when not in use.

Store all your guns in a proper gun safe. Many different designs are available, but a good choice uses both key and combination locks. Of course, keep your keys and combinations separate and out of reach. It's best to put your gun safes somewhere inconspicuous, such as in a closet. Store ammunition separately from the guns in its own safe.

Proper gun storage tends to work counter to effective self-defense, since you won't have immediate access to the weapons and ammunition. This means that a lot of gun owners don't follow basic safety precautions around the house, which is completely unacceptable if you care for the safety of your family and anyone else who enters your home. The right approach requires daily discipline. First, empty and lock up all your guns when leaving the home. If you carry a concealed weapon (and have a permit to do so), keep carrying your weapon concealed around the house as if you were in public. At bedtime, restrict access to your bedroom and then keep your main defense firearm at the ready and concealed near your bed. Finally, when you wake, reverse the procedure, making sure to lock up all your guns according to the best practices outlined above.

Knowing these precautions, you and your family will know when another family isn't following them. This would be your opportunity to educate them, or at least instruct your kids to steer clear.

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