Most Illinois Parents Do Not Ask About Firearms in the Home
Dangers that firearms in the home present for children are more prominent than ever. Forty percent of U.S. households with children have firearms in the home, and Healthy Children reports an estimated 4.6 million kids live with unlocked, loaded firearms in the home. Having firearms in the home increases the risk of unintentional shootings, suicide and homicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about half of fatal unintentional firearm injuries to children were inflicted by others, while 38% were self-inflicted. Approximately two-thirds of shooters were playing with or showing the firearm to others when it discharged. Firearms used in unintentional injury deaths were often stored loaded (74%) and unlocked (76%) and were most often accessed from nightstands and other sleeping areas (30%). One way for parents and caregivers to help keep children safe when they visit the homes of others is to ask whether there are firearms in the home.
In this month’s Voices of Child Health Report, we asked parents whether they have ever asked another parent about the presence of a firearm in the home, for instance, before a playdate. Over 1,000 parents from rural and urban communities across Illinois shared their experiences with us.
- Fewer than 4 in 10 parents report ever asking another parent about the presence of a firearm in their home.
- Parents from rural communities, mothers, older parents, and parents with less than a college degree were less likely to have asked about firearms in the home.
- Parents can make a New Year’s resolution to always ask about the presence of firearms before their child goes to a home where they have not been before.
What proportion of parents have asked about firearms in the home?
Fewer than 4 in 10 parents reported that they had ever asked another parent about the presence of a firearm in the home (38% yes, 62% no). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents ask about the presence of firearms any time their child is going to a home where they have not been before. This includes the homes of friends, family members and babysitters. Given the low proportion of parents who have ever asked about the presence of firearms, it is important that pediatricians and other child healthcare providers ask about the presence of firearms in places where children live and play, and provide caregivers with anticipatory guidance similar to other routine safety counseling such as use of car seats and helmets.
Differences by Parent Characteristics
The likelihood that a parent had asked about a firearm differed by some parent characteristics. Parents in rural communities were less likely to have asked about a firearm (26%) compared with parents in urban communities (41%). In the context of parent gender, mothers were less likely to have asked than fathers (33% vs. 48%). Parents who had completed some college (31%) and those who earned a high school diploma (34%) were less likely to have asked, compared with parents with a college degree or higher (49%). Older parents were less likely to have asked about a firearm than younger parents: only 25% of parents 41–50 years old and 32% of parents over 50 years old had asked, compared with 41% parents 18–30 years old and 43% of parents 31–40 years old. The proportion of parents who asked did not differ depending on the ages of the children in the home or the parent’s race and ethnicity.
Make a New Year’s Resolution to Ask!
With the start of a new year, parents can help keep their children safe by making a New Year’s resolution to always ask about the presence of firearms before their child goes to a home where they have not been before.
Tips on How to Ask
There are many ways that parents can approach a conversation about whether there are firearms in the home. Parents can include a question about firearms in the same way that they would discuss any allergies, or ask about pets, supervision or other safety issues. See below for some tips on how to start this conversation, and for example text messages that parents can use.
1. Open communication
By starting a respectful dialogue about firearm safety, not only can you learn about everything you need to know, you are also offering understanding up front.
2. Direct questions
It is important to ask clear questions about the presence of firearms and how they are stored. By speaking directly and with clarity, this can ensure there are no misunderstandings.
3. Discuss safety measures
If a firearm is present, ask about safety measures, such as storing firearms locked and unloaded, and storing ammunition separately. If you are uncomfortable with any measures that may be in place from the other parent, suggest an alternative location such as a park or playground, or invite the other child to play at your house instead.
4. Share your practices
Share your own safety practices before having a playdate at your home.