What is the problem?
There are an estimated 265 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States. With gun ownership comes responsibility. All gun owners should take certain steps to ensure that their guns are used safely, stored securely, and that they don’t end up in the wrong hands.
All gun owners should be educated on the risks associated with guns and the best practices for storing them securely. Under federal law and the vast majority of state laws, a person is not required to complete firearm safety training before buying a gun. This means a person can purchase a gun without ever having handled one—and in many states, that person would also be allowed to carry it in public without training.
Why is it an issue?
Gun ownership comes with gun responsibility.
An estimated 4.6 million American children live in households with at least one unlocked and loaded firearm. It should be no surprise that every year, nearly 350 children under the age of 18 unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else in this country. The majority of these incidents take place inside a home. Guns from home or a friend or family member’s home are used in the majority of children firearm suicides as well as in incidents of gun violence on school grounds. Parents underestimate their children’s curiosity, and the results can be catastrophic. In addition, estimates suggest that between 200,000 and 500,000 guns are stolen from individuals each year—the most recent nationally representative survey found that approximately 380,000 guns are stolen from private gun owners every year. We are all safer when gun owners are responsible and store their firearms securely.
By the numbers
There are an estimated 265 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, and more than one-third of homes contain at least one gun.
Access to a gun triples the risk of death by suicide.
Access to a gun doubles the risk of death by homicide.
Access to a gun makes it five times more likely that a woman will die at the hands of a domestic abuser.
What are the solutions?
Secure Gun Storage
Gun owners can make their homes and communities safer by storing their guns securely. This means storing them locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. Securing firearms protects children and adults by preventing unintentional shootings and gun suicides.
Gun Owner Safety Training
States should require a person to complete safety training prior to purchasing a gun or carrying a gun in public. Training ensures that gun owners are educated on the responsible practices for handling and using firearms, storing them securely at home, as well as carrying guns in public.
Report Lost and Stolen Guns
Requiring that lost and stolen guns be reported to law enforcement deters illegal gun trafficking. The reporting of these guns allows the police to respond more quickly to gun thefts and helps them identify tracking patterns.
Smart Guns and Gun Safety Features
A personalized—or “smart”—gun is a firearm that employs authorized-use technology, like the thumb scan or passcode available on many smartphones, to turn stolen guns and guns accessed by children into harmless pieces of steel. If widely implemented, it would be a game-changer for keeping guns out of the hands of children and criminals.
Educate Gun Owners of Risks
It is critical that gun buyers and permit applicants are given safety information. Requiring gun dealers to inform purchasers of the risks associated with firearms allows buyers to make educated decisions about owning and storing guns and is a meaningful step towards preventing gun violence.