40+ Home Gun Safety Tips, Education, and Resources

Many Americans choose to have guns in their homes, often for hunting, sport, home defense, or all of the above. And while firearms can be used safely, they can present a hazard for children and other family members living in the home. Children as young as three years old may have the finger strength to pull a trigger. But firearm related deaths and injuries are preventable with proper safety precautions.

Every home should practice gun safety to avoid accidental discharge, injury, or death. Read on to learn about important gun storage and handling safety tips as well as resources where you can learn more about practicing gun safety at home.

The Danger of Firearm Accidents

In 2009, 114 children younger than 20 years died from unintentional firearm related injuries. A significant amount of those children (66) were in the 15 to 19 year old age group. Often, fatal shootings are inflicted by other children, typically friends or siblings.

Practicing Gun Safety at Home

In homes with guns, family members should take great care to make sure that firearms are always safety stored and secured. Follow these tips to avoid making dangerous and potentially life threatening mistakes with gun safety.

  1. Practice complete safety 100% of the time: With gun safety, there is no middle ground. You're either safe or your not. Don't make mistakes, like leaving guns unattended while unloading from a hunting trip or visit to a shooting range. Secure firearms immediately and always.
  2. Store guns out of sight and out of reach: Guns should always be kept inaccessible to children in a location that is not easily seen and too high for them to reach without help.
  3. Never store loaded firearms: Firearms should never be loaded when they're not in use. This includes in a car, at camp, or at home.
  4. Lock up firearms: Firearms should be stored in a secured location such as a gun safe, locked cabinet, or locked storage case. The location should not be accessible to children.
  5. Store ammunition separate from firearms: Ammunition should always be kept separately from firearms in a locked location.
  6. Store firearms with secondary locks: Use a gun locking device like a trigger lock or cable lock that makes a firearm impossible to shoot unless the lock is removed. Some local police departments offer free trigger lock programs. However, remember that these are not a substitute for storing your firearm in a locked cabinet or safe. Consider using a gun alarm as well so that you'll be alerted any time an unauthorized person attempts to gain access to the gun.
  7. Store keys to gun storage inconspicuously: Never keep gun storage keys with other household keys, and made them inaccessible or difficult for children to find. Similarly, be sure to keep combinations to gun safes hidden from children.
  8. Ask visitors if they have a gun: If you have guests staying in your home, ask them if they've brought a firearm with them. Give them a locked place to store their gun so that it can be safely stored during their visit.
  9. Remove firearms from your home if a family member is depressed or suicidal: Family members suffering from serious mental illness could be a danger to themselves or others if they gain access to firearms. Remove firearms from your home if you have a family member suffering from mental illness.

Gun Safety Measures for Children

Children may not understand the dangers of guns. Teach them what to do if they see a gun, establish gun safety rules, and learn about gun risks at locations where children visit and play.

  1. Teach children gun safety guidelines: Teach children that weapons are not toys. Explain to children that they should never touch unattended guns and to leave the area immediately, then tell an adult. Tell them that guns can kill a person and they may not always be like they are on TV. Explain to them that real guns may look like toys. Keep in mind that young children may not understand how dangerous guns can be even with warnings and demonstrations.
  2. Do not allow children to play with BB, pellet, or paintball guns at a young age: Children should not handle any type of gun until they are old enough to understand and follow gun safety rules. Even BB and pellet guns can cause serious injury or death. The U.S. Consumer Protection Safety Commission recommends that these guns only be used by children age 16 and older under adult supervision.
  3. Ask about guns where your children play: Even if you don't have guns in your home or you store your guns safely, children may come into contact when visiting family or friends. You should know the gun status and safety level of every home your child enters. Ask grandparents, family members, babysitters, and friends if they have guns in their home and ask how they are stored. If you're not comfortable with their gun safety, offer to host at your home instead.

Safe Gun Handling

Gun safety doesn't begin and end with locked storage. It's essential that you handle firearms with care to reduce the risk of accidental discharge. Follow these tips any time you are handling a firearm.

  1. Act as if every gun is loaded: Even if you've personally unloaded a firearm, you should always treat it as if it is loaded. Most accidental discharges occur when people thought the gun was unloaded.
  2. Never leave a gun unattended while cleaning: Even when cleaning, a gun should never be left unattended. Your gun should always be within your line of sight, and ideally, within reach. Make sure that your gun is not loaded while cleaning. Remember to lock up gun cleaning supplies as well, as they are often poisonous.
  3. Always point firearms in a safe direction: Even when unloaded, you should point firearms away from people and pets. A gun is only pointed in a safe direction if it would not hurt anyone if it was accidentally discharged. Never point your gun at anything you are not shooting.
  4. Never leave your finger on a trigger: Until you intend to make a shot, don't put your finger on the trigger. Rest your finger outside of the trigger guard or on the side of the gun instead.
  5. Don't wait to put guns away: Always put firearms in secure storage immediately after use.
  6. Never handle a gun if you're in a challenged emotional state: If you're experiencing anger or depression, your judgment may be impaired, so avoid handling a gun in this state.
  7. Never use firearms under the influence of alcohol or drugs: Firearms should never be handled while the operator is impaired.
  8. Never load a firearm in your home or vehicle: Firearms should be loaded and unloaded outdoors and carefully and completely.
  9. Do not engage in celebratory gunfire: Refrain from shooting guns off of New Year's Eve or the Fourth of July. Stray bullets can return to the ground fast enough to cause injury or even death.
  10. Know how to use your gun on an intruder: If you keep a gun in the home for home defense, be ready to use it. If you hesitate, an intruder could take it away from you and use it on you or your loved ones.
  11. Know your target and what is beyond: Be sure that you know what you're shooting at -- as well as what is behind it. If you're in doubt, don't shoot.

Gun Safety Resources

Want to know more about safe gun handling, storage, and education? Use these resources from the experts in gun safety.

  1. Kids Health: Gun Safety: Kids Health Explains guidelines for gun safety with children in the home. They explain how to handle guns and pretend play, talking to kids about gun safety, and gun safety outside of your home.
  2. Project Child Safe: Ten Tips for Firearm Safety in the Home: Project Child Safe shares 10 tips for firearm safety, including storing them unloaded and separate from ammunition.
  3. National Shooting Sports Foundation: 10 Rules of Safe Gun Handling: The National Shooting Sports Foundation shares these important rules for practicing gun safety.
  4. WebMD: Gun Safety with Kids in the House: WebMD's guide offers practical advice for practicing gun safety with children in the home.
  5. HealthyChildren.org: Gun Safety: Keeping Children Safe: The American Association of Pediatrics offers recommendations for keeping children safe from injury or death by guns. Their recommendation is to never keep a gun in the home, but they also offer tips for those who still prefer to keep a gun in the home.
  6. Moroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt: Gun Safety Tips for Parents: Parents should follow these tips to keep children safe around firearms, including proper storage and talking to children and caregivers about guns.
  7. California Attorney General: Six Basic Gun Safety Rules: The California Attorney General offers these gun safety rules for handling and storage of firearms.

Gun Safety Education

These videos, quizzes, and courses offer excellent educational resources for learning about and testing your knowledge of gun safety.

  1. Eddie Eagle Gun Safe Program: The Eddie Eagle Gun Safe Program from the National Rifle Association teaches children from pre-K through 4th grade what to do if they come across a gun.
  2. NRA Training: The National Rifle Association offers a training course in home firearms safety.
  3. National Handgun Safety Course: The National Handgun Safety Education Course teaches adults how to safely use handguns in just a few hours.
  4. Firearm Safety Quiz: How well do you know firearm safety? Take this quiz to assess your firearm safety knowledge.
  5. Are You a Safe Hunter?: This safety quiz will test your hunting safety knowledge.
  6. Have a Conversation with Kids About Firearm Safety: This video explains how you can have an important conversation about firearm safety with your children.
  7. Project ChildSafe Child's Pledge: This pledge encourages every child to make the promise to be safe around guns and clearly defines rules for gun safety.
  8. McGruff the Crime Dog on Gun Safety: Familiar face McGruff explains gun safety to children grades Kindergarten through 6th.
  9. It's Your Call: Playing it Safe Around Guns: Children in 6th through 9th grades can learn how to behave safely around guns from this video.
  10. Firearms Safety Depends on You: Developed for all ages, this video explains the responsibility of firearm safety.
  11. Introduction to Range Safety and Etiquette: Do you know how to handle guns safely and politely at the firing range? Watch this video for a quick overview of range safety and etiquette.

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