Last year death rates due to firearms soared to the highest level in nearly three decades. What’s more, guns became the leading cause of death for American kids.
A recent research letter from the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus, published in JAMA Pediatrics, makes clear how easy it can be for adolescents to gain access to firearms in the Rocky Mountain state and how potentially deadly it is, particularly for kids in crisis.
The “Healthy Kids Colorado Survey,” administered online at schools across the state by the Colorado School of Public Health and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, found that nearly one-third of middle and high school students report that they have access to a gun. Over 25 percent said they could get a gun within 24 hours; 12 percent said they could have access in under 10 minutes.
In rural areas the numbers were slightly higher: nearly 40 percent of the children and teens surveyed reported access to firearms within 24 hours, and roughly 17 percent said they could have access within 10 minutes.
“If a child can quickly access a gun, there’s a higher risk of them hurting themselves or others.”
The relative ease of accessibility to guns is especially disturbing considering the increase in suicide among adolescents.
“There’s a high rate of firearm suicides in our youth and we know that for a large portion of those who attempt suicide, that ideation to action can happen under 10 minutes,” principal investigator, Ashley Brooks-Russell, director at the Injury and Violence Prevention Center located at CU Anschutz, said in a press release. “This means if a child can quickly access a gun, there’s a higher risk of them hurting themselves or others.”
The research team hopes that by raising awareness, parents, schools and community leaders in Colorado can take action that will reduce young people’s access to guns. “Given the impulsive nature of suicide, it’s critical to understand and raise awareness about how quickly kids can access a loaded gun and what we can do to lower access,” said co-author Virginia McCarthy, a Doctor of Public Health student who also works at the Colorado School of Public Health Injury and Violence Prevention Center.
The authors suggest that by raising awareness, parents, schools and community leaders can take action to limit an adolescent’s access to guns, whether that means schools providing families with gun locks for secure storage or encouraging parents to have conversations with kids about gun safety.
In Colorado, gun safety precautions include taking advantage of the state’s Out-of-Home Gun Storage Map to find a place to safely and temporarily store their firearm(s).
“Given the impulsive nature of suicide, it’s critical to understand and raise awareness about how quickly kids can access a loaded gun and what we can do to lower access.”
There are many reasons why a gun owner might decide to temporarily store a gun away from home. Among them:
- They are traveling out of state and want to keep firearms secure while they are away.
- A teenager in the home is in crisis and at risk for suicide.
- The grandkids are visiting.
- A couple is divorcing and arguments are getting heated.
- A family member is experiencing mental health or substance abuse concerns.
Besides keeping firearms out of reach, if your child is depressed or talking about suicide, don’t wait to get help. You or your child can call the Suicide and Crisis Hotline’s emergency number: 988. You can also put the Crisis Text Line: 741741, into your child’s phone so they can access it at any time by themselves.