Simplifying Science

The Lifesaving Magic Of Locking It Up

Amidst the raging national debate over gun rights and ownership, there’s a simple intervention which turns out to be downright lifesaving: if there’s a gun in the home, store it unloaded and locked up. Pediatricians have known this for decades, but we haven’t done an effective enough job of spreading the information. Maybe publicity stemming from this new study will. Researchers asked how many gun deaths from suicide and accidental homicide could be prevented with the simple steps of unloading a gun and then storing it locked away? The answer: anywhere between 6 – 32% of those deaths would actually become lives saved. And this is especially profound given that the majority of gunshot deaths in this country are caused by suicide.

The fact is that at least 13 million US households have both children and guns. And under those roofs, more than 20% of firearms are stored both loaded and unlocked, and another 50% either loaded or unlocked. Other studies have documented that even though parents often think their kids don’t know where guns are kept, three quarters of all kids know exactly where to find them.

Regardless of where you stand on the gun debate, it’s common sense that the only safe way to keep a gun in a home is to have it locked away and not just unloaded, but nowhere near the ammunition (which should be locked away as well).


Legislators and gun safety advocates often focus on how guns are purchased. But many lives could be saved, especially among children, if they looked more at how they are stored. In the last decade, guns killed more than 14,000 American children. A startling number of those deaths—more than a third—were classified as suicides, and around 6 percent as accidents. READ MORE