A topic that has come up recently in comments here and at other sites is the "Four Rules" of gun safety, as well as general firearms responsibility, such as safe storage of firearms.
Here is a link to a pamphlet that is released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which I think is very well put-together for this topic:
though they put more faith in the presence of children than I do (see below).
Also, from the Ceasefire Oregon website (http://www.ceasefireoregon.org/coef/C3facts.html):
Protecting Your Family:Other factors change, but there's one common denominator in every unintentional firearm injury: access to a loaded firearm. The most important thing parents, caregivers and gun owners can do to protect children is reduce their access to firearms and safely store all guns.
Here's what gun owners can do:• If you have children in the home, any gun is a potential danger to them. Seriously consider the risks.• Store firearms unloaded, locked up and out of children's reach.• Store ammunition in a separate, locked location.• Use quality gun locks, lock boxes or gun safes on every firearm. Gun locks, when correctly installed, prevent firearms from being discharged without the lock being removed.• Keep gun storage keys and lock combinations hidden in a separate location.• Take a course in using, maintaining and storing guns safely.
Here's what all caregivers can do:• Talk to your children about the potential dangers of guns.• Teach children never to touch or play with a gun.• Teach children to tell an adult if they find a gun, or call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number if no adult is present.• Check with neighbors, friends or relatives--or adults in any other homes where children visit--to ensure they follow safe storage practices if firearms are in the home. See our ASK Program.
I might add, I grew up in a home with guns, and none of these rules were followed.
I don't recommend you have a firearm of any kind in your home if:
- you have children or teens in the home at any time
- you have anyone in the home, including yourself, who is depressed, undergoing traumatic events such as divorce, or has expressed suicidal feelings or actions in the recent past
- you are uncomfortable with or untrained in usage of your firearms (such as when a firearms-trained spouse dies or if you have become unable to wield them safely, such as by health problems like blindness, advanced Alzheimer's, or palsy).
- you have anyone in the home or visiting who is mentally ill in a way which causes erratic or violent behavior.
- you or anyone in the home has a history of violent behavior or arrests for violent behavior, including domestic violence
Now, I can predict some responses to these suggestions, particularly with my feelings about children and teens. Some of you might be inclined to use the "Not my child!" excuse to counter my firm belief that even the most mature and responsible children and teens have moments of curiosity and impulsiveness, and that you can't control for their friends at all times, and that this puts those children at risk if there are guns in the home, even if they have been trained in safety and appropriate usage. I know it from my own childhood, including a suicide of a teenage friend and a fatal shooting that I was involved in (as a witness from just a few feet away from the shooter and victim, both teens).
Consider the following statistics:
- Among gun-owning parents who reported that their children had never handled their firearms at home, 22% of the children, questioned separately, said that they had (Baxley and Miller, p. 542).
- Of youths who committed suicide with firearms, 82% obtained the firearm from their home, usually a parent’s firearm (The National Violent Injury Statistics System, p. 2).
- When storage status was noted, about two-thirds of the firearms had been stored unlocked (The National Violent Injury Statistics System, p. 2).
- Among the remaining cases in which the firearms had been locked, the youth knew the combination or where the key was kept or broke into the cabinet (The National Violent Injury Statistics System, p. 2).
Baxley, Fances, MD, and Matthew Miller, MD, ScD. “Parental Misperceptions About Children and Firearms.” Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine. 160 (2006): 542-47.
The National Violent Injury Statistics System. Youth Suicide: Findings from a pilot for the National Violent Death Reporting System. Boston: Harvard Injury Control Research Center: Harvard School of Public Health, 2009. http://www.sprc.org/library/YouthSuicideFactSheet.pdf. Originally accessed through Harvard School of Public Health: Means Matters. Source of Firearms in Youth Suicides. Boston: Harvard School of Public Health, 2009. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/means-matter/youth-access/index.html.