The secure storage of lethal means is an effective way to prevent tragedy and save lives, particularly children. Here, lethal means includes things like prescription medications and firearms.
Wondering how it works? We sat down with Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) Co-Founder and CEO, Mark Barden, to answer common questions about this important way to protect families and communities.
Why does the secure storage of lethal means matter?
Imagine your child goes to their friend’s house for the day. You know the parents well and have never had safety concerns. But what you didn’t know was that they keep their guns unlocked in a shoebox, readily accessible to a curious child. What happens next could be heartbreaking. 1
Now imagine you receive news that a loved one was shot and killed in an armed robbery. The investigation reveals the gun used was stolen from a gun owner who failed to securely store it.
Lastly, imagine you step away from your child for “just a few minutes” to respond to a neighbor knocking at the door. You come back and discover your child has ingested medication from the pill box you keep on the kitchen table.
These realities are far too frequent. However, secure storage of firearms and other dangerous items can make a difference. Storing lethal means securely and consistently leads to fewer accidents, suicides, school shootings, and stolen guns.2
What does it mean to securely store my gun?
A securely stored gun is stored in a way that ensures children aren’t able to get their hands on it. A related benefit is that it also helps prevent stolen guns. Stolen guns are commonly used in crimes such as robberies, murders, and other forms of gun violence.2
Even unloaded guns should be securely stored. Best practices for securely storing guns include:
- Using a secure storage device. Meaning, a gun must be stored in a locked container that can only be unlocked with a special key, combination, identification tool, or something similar (examples include a case, safe, locker, or lock box); or
- Storing the gun out of sight. Even when stored out of sight, guns should have a locking device on them which can only be unlocked with a special key, combination, identification tool, or by other similar means (examples include a trigger lock or cable lock).
How would legislation calling for secure storage of lethal means help my family and my kids?
At Sandy Hook Promise, secure storage policy solutions differ at the federal and state levels. Together, these policies keep items commonly issued to adults – such as guns and medications – out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. This simple step protects families and communities from preventable tragedies.
Federal Level: At the federal level, secure storage is grounded in empowering parents and caregivers to keep kids from easily accessing firearms, medication, and other dangerous items. Leaving harmful or potentially deadly materials like medication in a child’s reach could lead to death.
State Level: At the state level, secure storage is grounded in helping families. These policies call for secure storage of firearms while also balancing gun owners’ interest in ready access during an emergency. Because accidental shootings are incredibly traumatizing, it also makes free or low-cost mental health support available to impacted households. Learn more about our Ohio solution.
Why does Sandy Hook Promise care about secure storage?
Sandy Hook Promise is committed to keeping children safe in schools, homes, and communities. Secure storage is particularly important for keeping children safe at home. Sandy Hook Promise also believes people should receive help when they need it most. This can include separating an individual in crisis from harmful or deadly materials. At both the federal and state levels, secure storage is a helping tool; it helps families prevent tragedies that start in the home.
Isn’t this really about personal responsibility?
It only takes a moment for something an adult knows how to handle safely – such as a gun or medications – to become lethal to a child.
Many gun owners teach their kids to avoid handling guns. Others teach them when it’s okay to handle them and how. This isn’t enough. One study found that even when young children were enrolled in a week-long gun safety program, they played with guns at the same rate as children who did not participate in the program. 3 This highlights the need to securely store guns at all times.
Additionally, every year 35,000 children end up in emergency rooms after accessing medications when an adult wasn’t looking. Even when we teach our children not to do something, young hands and minds remain curious. This shows why secure storage of medications is so important.
Is secure storage of lethal means really that big of an issue?
Gun violence affects people in every state, including youth. In 2019, the U.S. saw 993 gun deaths and 2,826 gun injuries among people age 17 or younger. This increased to 1,381 gun deaths and 3,770 gun injuries in 2020, and 1,554 gun deaths and 4,127 gun injuries in 2021. 4
According to a 2020 Safe Kids Worldwide report, five children are rushed to the emergency department each hour for medication poisoning.5 While the majority of poisonings are among infant and toddler age groups, more serious poisonings occur among teen age groups. In 2020, there were an estimated 61,500 children under 5 years old treated in emergency departments for unintentional poisonings.6
Will “secure storage” prevent quick access in a moment of need?
No. Safes and lockboxes do a good job balancing safety with quick access. This means that in the event of an emergency the items inside – such as guns and medications – can be readily accessed. When it comes to the secure storage of guns in particular, law enforcement recommends regularly practicing how to open the unit.
When it comes to secure storage, what’s the bottom line?
Secure storage of lethal means saves lives.
- It prevents children and others from accessing harmful materials that could cause death.
- It is a step in ensuring children and families are safe from intentional and accidental harm or death.
- It should be part of American culture. Please join us in supporting legislation to help parents and caregivers keep kids safe.
- Cox, J. W. (2021, September 27). Two kids, a loaded gun and the man who left a 4-year-old to die. The Washington Post. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/interactive/2021/dc-kids-shooting-victims-guns/.
- Shoaf, L. C. (n.d.). Gun Violence – Ohio Data. OCJS. Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://www.ocjs.ohio.gov/links/ocjs-NICS-GunViolenceReport.pdf.
- Hardy MS. Teaching firearm safety to children: failure of a program. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2002 Apr;23(2):71-6. doi: 10.1097/00004703-200204000-00002. PMID: 11943968. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11943968/
- Past Summary Ledgers – 2019, 2020, 2021. Gun Violence Archive. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2022, from https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/past-tolls
- SafeKids Worldwide. Keeping Kids Safe Around Medicine: Insights and Implications. medicine_safety_study_2020-v14.pdf (safekids.org)
- United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. Annual Report on Pediatric Poisoning Fatalities and Injuries. Jan 2022. AnnualReportonPediatricPoisoningFatalitiesandInjuries_January2022.pdf (cpsc.gov)