How Many Kids Live in Households That Have Guns? New Study Shows Safety Lessons Are Rare

by Becky Bracken

Our kids are surrounded by guns all the time, whether we know it or not. And the consequences can be deadly. But despite evidence that gun safety measures can help, a new study reveals parents aren't interested in talking, or getting advice from their pediatricians about how to keep their kids safe. But just how many kids live in households with guns? A new study showing the wide gulf between the two sets of numbers is concerning.

According to the research from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, half — specifically just over 50 percent — of American kids spend time in households with guns, ABC News reported. Conversely, about a third of parents said they didn't want to talk to their family pediatrician about having guns at home and would be offended if the topic was even brought up.

Really? In America, it seems, guns, and discussions surrounding guns, just get people too upset. Vapors and all of that. But when it comes to our kids' safety, it might be time to suck it up and have the tough talks, with pediatricians, other parents, and our children too.

“Guns are an emotional topic,” Dr. Jane Garbutt, professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, and author of the study, told ABC. “Our work suggests this type of conversation doesn’t happen enough. But we need to find a way for doctors and patients to have this discussion to keep kids safe.”

You know what else is an emotional topic? Kids dying from senseless gun accidents. Is all the political vitriol whipped up by activists and advocates on both sides of the gun issue really more important than our kids? From the data released in this study, one could certainly draw that sad conclusion.

According to Everytown Research, an arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, from December 2012 to December 2013, at least 100 kids were killed in accidental shootings. Two-thirds of those shootings occurred in a family-owned vehicle or home. A full 70 percent of those deaths were the result of a gun being stored loaded and unlocked.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Parents need to be reminded, in the interest of their children's health, to adequately secure their guns. Visits to the pediatrician seem like a natural place to talk about keeping kids safe, but because of the fear of parents getting offended, in addition to having limited time and a feeling it wouldn't really help anyway, doctors aren't having these conversations, according to ABC News.

But, the study found it might be more effective for doctors to be trained on talking about gun safety more generally, rather than putting parents on the spot by asking whether they have guns at home.

"We need to make it about hazard avoidance," Garbutt told ABC. "We need to place firearms in the same domain as medications or household poisons, and discuss them as we would other dangerous things in the home. The message from pediatricians has to be, 'Lock it up. Keep it away from your child.'"

Essentially it comes down to parents, on all sides of the gun safety issue, to start talking openly and honestly about how to keep our kids safe. And based on this research and others, simply keeping guns out of your own home doesn't mean your kids won't be around them everywhere else. We have to accept the reality: Our kids are growing up in a country awash in guns.

If you have a gun, get a refresher on keeping that thing secured. If you're sending your kids to a friend's house, ask their parents if there are any unsecured guns around. Ultimately it's up to parents to take the initiative to keep our kids safe from all sorts of dangers. We need to have the courage to do the same with guns, even if it's unpleasant.