One Question Could Save A Child’s Life

Parents ask plenty of questions before their children visit other homes. “Do you have any cats? My daughter is allergic to cat dander.” Or “Do you have filters set up on your computer? Our son has been known to stumble onto some websites we don’t want him to see.”  “Will you be serving anything with peanut butter? My child has a peanut allergy.” There is another question that parents need to ask, one important enough that it could save a child’s life: “Is there an unlocked gun in your house?”

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence feel so strongly about the question that they created a campaign to encourage parents to ask it. The campaign actually is called ASK, for Asking Saves Kids.

Consider these statistics:
• 1 in 3 homes with children in the United States have guns.

• 42% of parents with guns keep at least one unlocked.

• 3 out of 4 children ages 5-14 know where firearms are kept in their homes.

I know that the question may seem awkward, but it doesn’t have to be if it is asked just like any other safety question about children. I recommend that parents try this approach: “I have a question that I ask whenever my child visits a new house. Do you have any guns in the home? If you do, are they stored unloaded and locked up? Is the ammunition locked in a separate place? My child is just so curious, and I worry about what he would do if he found a weapon.”

You may notice that’s more than one question. I think all of them are worth thinking about and should be answered. This is not about politics, and it is not a judgment of gun ownership. This is about child safety. All responsible owners of guns agree that child safety around guns is important.


Remember, Asking Saves Kids. For more information about the project and news about events, visit

Gary A. Smith, MD, DrPH
Dr. Gary Smith is a Professor of Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at The Ohio State University. He is founder and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dr. Smith is board certified in the specialties of pediatrics and general preventive medicine and public health, and in the subspecialty of pediatric emergency medicine. In addition to his clinical training, he holds MPH and DrPH degrees from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Smith has been an active researcher in the field of injury for more than 25 years.He is immediate past chairperson of the national Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention (COIVPP) of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), having served on the Committee for 10 years. He also served as chairperson of the COIVPP of the Ohio Chapter of the AAP for 10 years and chairperson of the Ohio Commission on the Prevention of Injury during its existence from 2001-2003. From 2003-2006, he was a member of the Initial Review Group (research study section) for the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.He has published more than 100 injury-related articles in peer-reviewed journals, was on the editorial board of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine for six years and is currently on the editorial board of Pediatrics. Among other awards, he was honored by the Ohio AAP as the Ohio Pediatrician of the Year in 2003, and by national Section on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention of the AAP with the Fellow Achievement Award in 2006. He was named as the first recipient of the Dimon R. McFerson Endowed Chair in Injury Research in 2007. His research focuses on injuries to children and adolescents, including motor vehicle-related injuries, consumer product-related injuries and home safety.

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