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Does a Gun Safety Video Make Kids Safer Around Actual Guns?

October 10, 2023

Written by Michael Stocker

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Children who viewed a 1-minute firearm safety video* exhibited safer behaviors around inert firearms staged in a playroom. With firearm-related deaths overtaking motor vehicles as the leading cause of US minor deaths, introducing children to firearm safety shows promise in addressing one dimension of this public health crisis.

You’ll shoot your eye out, kid
This randomized trial included 226 children ages 8 and 12 who were paired to either a 1-minute firearm safety* or car safety video. Participants returned one week later and watched movie clips with or without guns before playing in a laboratory room staged with two inert handguns hidden amongst toys. Investigated outcomes included whether children told an adult about the guns, touched and handled the firearms, and trigger pulls. Children in the gun safety group were significantly more likely to tell an adult, less likely to touch guns or handle them for prolonged periods, and less likely to pull the trigger. This study was limited in generalizability given the small age-limited cohort from a restricted geographic area and did not demonstrate any lasting effect, given children were only tested once one week after the intervention. Tragically, of the 216 children that found an inert firearm, 41 (19%) pulled the trigger a total of 1,222 times, one third of which were pointed at themselves or others.

How will this change my practice?
While I frequently discuss topics of safety unrelated to a child’s chief complaint – e.g. safe sleeping practices – firearm safety is not a topic I often discuss with parents on a busy shift in the ED. While this study hasn’t proven such an intervention will move the needle, it is enough for me to reconsider my role in addressing this crisis amongst our youth. Could it be as simple as asking parents if they mind if I include a 1-minute firearm safety video with their discharge instructions?

Effect of a Gun Safety Video on Children’s Behavior Around Real Guns: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatr. 2023 Sep 1;177(9):903-910. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2023.2397.

*This is the script of the video: “Hi, I am Police Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt. I help keep The Ohio State University campus safe. I am here today to discuss gun safety. Guns are not toys and are not to be played with. If a child finds a real gun, they should not pick it up or move it. Instead, find an adult and tell them where it is located. Do not bring guns to school. If you see or hear of a gun at school, tell a teacher or the school police officer. Likewise, even toy guns could be dangerous. Never pretend that a toy gun is real. And most importantly, always follow the directions of police officers. Our police officers care deeply for your safety and are here to help.”

What are your thoughts?