Teen Safety about Guns and Mass Shooting Situations

Guns are a controversial topic of conversation in the United States, especially after the tragic shooting in Las Vegas. Regardless of your position on the Second Amendment, everyone can agree that we want to keep our children safe, and that requires all of us to know, use, and teach proper gun safety. This blog will detail what you should do to keep your teens protected.

Gun Safety

Firearm injuries remain the second leading cause of death, behind motor vehicle crashes, for teens ages 15 to 19. Almost half of households in the United States own a gun, but only a little more than one-third of those families keep their firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. Even if you don’t own a gun, your teen could visit the home of a friend whose family does. A recent study by the Children’s National Hospital showed:

  • 20,000 children and youth visit the ER every year for firearm-related injuries
  • 40% of parents erroneously believe that their children are unaware of where weapons are stored in the home
  • 22% of parents erroneously believe their children have never handled the household firearm
  • Most guns involved in self-inflicted (suicide) and unintentional (accident) firearm injuries came either from the victim’s home or the home of a friend or relative.


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states the safest home for children and teens is one without guns. If there are guns in the home, scientific evidence shows the risk of injury or death is greatly reduced when they are stored unloaded and locked, with the ammunition locked in a separate place.

The following firearm guidelines can help reduce the risk for teen injury:

  • If there are guns in your home:
    • Store guns unloaded, separate from ammunition, and in locked cabinets. Keep keys in a separate, safe location.
    • Make sure that every gun in your home has a high-quality trigger lock.
    • Take a course in the safe operation and storage of guns.
    • If your adolescent uses guns recreationally, make sure that he or she takes and passes a firearm safety course.
  • Even if you don’t have a gun:
    • Talk to your teen about the danger of guns, and establish these firm rules:
      • Never touch or play with a gun
      • Tell an adult right away if you see or find a gun
    • Check with neighbors, friends, relatives, and any place your teen visits to make sure safe gun storage techniques are followed.

Teaching teens what to do if they do come in contact with a gun is vitally important. Perhaps a friend’s parents don’t lock away their guns, or a peer brings a gun to a local hangout, or maybe this is the one instance an adult forgot to unload and lock up their gun; regardless of the situation, your teen needs to know to never touch a gun and to tell an adult right away. So many parents of childhood victims are shocked because they thought their child knew how dangerous guns were and would never touch one. Learn from their mistakes by making your expectations for your teen very clear.

What to Do in a Mass Shooting

The chances of any of us being in the area of a mass shooting is very slim, but it always helps to think through potential dangers and develop a plan. Use last week’s tragic Las Vegas shooting as a way to broach the subject with your teen. Remind them that it is very unlikely that they will ever be in a situation with an active shooter, but just in case, you wanted to let them know what they should do if they are. Experts suggest the following sequence for teens: Run, Hide, Tell.

Run. Whenever possible, your best chance to survive a shooting is to run to an exit. Leaving the area of the shooting should be your first goal. Sometimes well-meaning people think they should hide from the shooter instead of run, but experts state that escaping the area is always the best option. As you run, keep these things in mind:

  • React immediately. Don’t waste time debating your options, just run directly to an exit.
  • Consider alternate exits. Don’t just assume that the way you came in is the only way out. If you’re outside, consider jumping over fences or other boundaries to escape. If you’re inside, remember that most buildings have a rear exit for employees.
  • Forget your belongings. Do not waste time looking for your wallet, your purse, or your cell phone. If you drop something, don’t stop to retrieve it. You can recover them later, but you can’t recover your life.
  • Bring people with you. Encourage others to run. Others may have frozen in fear or be disoriented, so grab them and bring them along. Staying in a bigger group will also help keep you safe.
  • Do not use your phone. So many people want to use their phone while they are still in the danger area. They either want to call 9-1-1 or text someone for help or they are trying to take photos or videos of the event. Experts agree that it is essential you do not use your phone until you are clear of danger.


Hide. If the only escape route is blocked and you can’t run, then hide. The best place to hide is in a room with a locked door. Bring others with you, lock the door, and barricade the door with heavy objects if possible. Turn out the lights and stay silent (silence your cell phone). Authorities do NOT recommend hiding in a restroom because restrooms typically cannot be locked or barricaded. If there are no rooms to hide in, then get behind something that will stop a bullet, like a wall or pillar, and hide. If you have your phone with you, silence it and text a parent or trusted adult to call the police. Do not try to call 9-1-1 yourself until you are away from the shooting area as your conversation might attract the shooter’s attention.

Tell. When you are safe (out of the shooting area or the gunman has been disarmed), then you should call the authorities or text a trusted adult.

Talking to Your Teen about Mass Shootings

It can be very difficult for us to know what to say to our children when a mass shooting occurs. Fortunately, the Child Mind Institute has put together some very good resources. Please download their guides for navigating this difficult conversation.

Final thoughts…

Regardless of your opinion on guns, firearms are a part of our lives and must be handled responsibly. Keep teens safe by keeping guns unloaded and locked up, clearly stating that they should never touch a gun and move away from anyone who has a gun, and telling them their best options if ever faced with an active shooter.

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