June 21, 2023

Discussing firearm storage is important for child safety

MADISON, Wis. – To recognize National Asking Saves Kids Day, or ASK Day, a UW Health Kids expert is encouraging parents and caregivers to ask questions about whether guns are accessible to their children.

The annual awareness day is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, commonly called AAP, and is focused on raising awareness and educating families on the importance of safe firearms storage, according to Dr. Adam Brinkman, pediatric trauma medical director, UW Health Kids, and associate professor of surgery, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

“When a parent or caregiver drops their child off at another family’s home, we want to encourage parents to ask about firearms and safe firearm storage,” he said. “All too often, firearms get into the hands of children leading to severe, oftentimes lethal, injuries.”

New data has shown that the number of firearm-related injuries among children has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and death by firearms is now the leading cause of death for those age 19 and younger, according to a March 2022 study published by the AAP.

Locally, UW Health Kids has seen a similar change in the rate of injuries. There were nine firearm injuries treated in 2017, seven in 2018 and just one in 2019 at American Family Children’s Hospital. But in 2020, the cases rose sharply to 15 firearm-related injuries, 10 in 2021, 17 in 2022, and to date in 2023, there have been 10 firearm-related injuries.

This trend is alarming and likely to continue unless action is taken to ask and keep kids safe, Brinkman said.

“As physicians, we want to reverse this trend and keep our kids safe,” he said. “This day is important because pediatric safety advocates come together to highlight the dangers of unlocked guns in the home and offer strategies to prevent firearm-related injuries.”

UW Health Kids and AAP offer the following tips:

  • Children are safer when the firearm is in a locked box or a safe, unloaded.

  • Ammunition should be locked away separately.

  • Talk with other parents or caregivers to ask if they are following these safety measures if your children will be spending time in their homes.

  • Choose which adult in charge to speak with and have the discussion before a visit.

  • Decide how to ask and think about how to respond to different answers in advance.

  • Teach children not to touch guns and go find an adult right away if they find one.

“We want parents to talk to their kids and each other about potential dangers of firearms and be sure kids know what they should do if they come across improperly secured firearms,” Brinkman said.