Prevention is a key aspect of many public health activities. When it comes to gun safety in the home, preventative measures can mean the difference between unnecessary life and death for children and teens.
“The importance of gun safety is paramount,” said Lt. Scott Galloway of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office. “Minors who have access to firearms at home increase the risk of unintentional firearm-related death and injury in children.”
Galloway said guns and other weapons are used for several reasons, including hunting, work and self-defense. Making sure people understand the importance of gun safety, he said, goes through proper education and training.
“Training is very important not only when it comes to learning, storing and using the firearm, but also when it comes to educating children and other family members. about the importance of gun safety,” Galloway said.
Galloway is a member of the Henderson County Child Mortality Prevention Team (CFPT). State law requires counties to form CFPTs that meet regularly to review the deaths of county residents under the age of 18. The team’s goal is to identify preventable causes of death and make recommendations or take action where necessary.
Some actions triggered by recommendations from local child death prevention teams in North Carolina include bicycle helmet laws, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) prevention education, education about the Purple Crying Period for Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention and the Safe Handover Act.
Members of the Henderson County Child Death Prevention Team represent public and non-public agencies in the community that provide services to children and their families as well as others who represent the community. Recently, the team highlighted the importance of gun safety for gun owners and their families.
In the most recent statewide annual report, the North Carolina Child Death Prevention Team’s 2020 Annual Summary reports that nine minor deaths occurred from accidental injuries by firearm in the state and 30 suicides as a result of the use of a firearm.
“Secure firearm storage can prevent tragic child deaths,” said Dr. Diana Curran, Medical Director of the Henderson County Public Health Department and CFPT member. “We urge gun owners to be responsible and thoughtful about storing their guns and ammunition where children cannot access them.
“Whether you store your gun at home or in your vehicle, always remember to keep guns locked up and away from curious young hands,” Curran added. “Minors can be impulsive and make bad choices in a difficult time. Preventing access to loaded weapons could save their lives.
Gun Safety Tips
The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office offers several gun safety tips:
Always keep the muzzle of a firearm pointed in a safe direction. A “safe direction” means the gun is pointed so that even if a careless discharge occurs, it will not result in injury.
Always keep your finger on the trigger until you intend to shoot. When handling a firearm, place your finger on the outside of the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Don’t touch the trigger until you’re ready to fire.
Firearms must be unloaded when not in use. Whenever you pick up a firearm, such as when taking it out of storage or returning it to storage, remember to point it in a safe direction and make sure it is unloaded .
Make sure you understand how your firearm works: read your firearm’s manual, know how to safely open and close the firearm’s action, and know how to safely remove any ammunition from the gun. firearm and its magazine.
Store your firearms in a locked cabinet, safe, safe or storage case when not in use, making sure they are in a place inaccessible to children and cannot be manipulated by anyone without your permission.
Store your ammunition in a locked area separate from firearms. Use a locking device that renders the weapon inoperable when not in use. A gun lock should be used as an additional security measure and not as a substitute for secure storage.
Make sure the young people in your household know and understand firearms safety.
Teach young children, although it shouldn’t happen, to make sure that if they find a firearm unattended in their home or a neighbor’s house, do not touch it and tell an adult.
Always unload, clean and place your firearms in their secure storage location immediately after use.
Educate all members of your family about gun safety.
Andrew Mundhenk is the director of communications for the Henderson County Department of Public Health.