• Article
  • February 8, 2017

Give Families the Tools to Store Firearms Safely

This hospital gives away firearm lock boxes and trigger locks at large-scale community events.

A closer look

A child is killed by gunfire every eight days in Washington state. With preventive measures, this number can be reduced:

  • 85 percent reduction in accidental shootings if firearms are stored safely
  • 78 percent reduction in suicide if firearms are stored safely
  • 76 percent of participants now report using a device to lock a household firearm
Sources: JAMA, Seattle Children's Hospital

In 2013, a child or teen was killed by gunfire every eight days in the state of Washington. To combat the third-leading cause of injury-related death for children in the state, Seattle Children's Hospital became one of the few hospitals in the country investing in ongoing community programming focused on safe firearm storage.

The hospital offers education on safe firearm storage to parents and caregivers and also offers free lock boxes and trigger locks at large-scale community events. From December 2014 to January 2017, Seattle Children's gave away 2,554 lock boxes and 247 trigger locks at nine events. "No one is distributing these free safety tools in the quantities we are," says Chelsie Gallagher, senior communications specialist with the Safe Firearm Storage Program at Seattle Children's.

The hospital purchases firearm lock boxes and trigger locks through Farwest Sports Inc., the sourcing and purchasing arm of a local outdoor sporting goods store, and distributes them to families. The hospital identified devices that met the State of California Department of Justice-approved firearm safety devices list—the only identified standards for quality of firearm safety devices. Lock boxes were selected based on size, price and features.

Gallagher says families who received devices are using them, and preliminary evaluations have found that safe storage practices are improving. Other children's hospitals are also interested in the program. "Our peers want to know how to engage in the firearm conversation in a neutral way, which means talking about safe firearm storage—focused on the safety of kids and our communities," Gallagher says. "Just like we talk about life jackets, booster seats and sports helmets, we hope to normalize the culture of safety associated with storing firearms safely."

Learn how Phoenix Children’s Hospital encourages parents to find out if there are guns where their kids play.

Send questions or comments to magazine@childrenshospitals.org.