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Children's Mental Health Risk Does Not Impact Presence or Storage of Firearms in the Home


Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 17 years. For children in this age group, firearms accounted for over 40 percent of all suicides. A study in the March 2018 issue of Pediatrics, “Firearm Storage in Homes with Children with Self-Harm Risk Factors” (published online Feb. 26) examined whether a child’s risk of self-harm affected the likelihood a parent would have a gun in the home, as well as how a gun was stored (locked/unlocked, loaded/unloaded). Researchers found that firearms were as likely to be present in homes with children who had a history of self-harm risk factors, such as depression or other mental health conditions, as in homes where no child had a history of self-harm risk factors. They also found that two-thirds of homes with children and firearms stored at least one firearm unlocked and loaded, regardless of whether children in the home had self-harm risk factors.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the safest home for a child is one without firearms, but that the risk of injury can be reduced substantially, but not eliminated, by storing all household firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. The researchers concluded that a child’s history of depression or other self-harm risk factors does not appear to influence parent or caretaker decisions about whether to have firearms in the home, or whether firearms in the home are stored as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (i.e., locked and unloaded).

Editor’s Note: The solicited commentary, “Reducing Youth Firearm Suicide Risk: Evidence for Opportunities,” accompanies this study.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 66,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds