The cost of firearm injuries is high — not just in dollars, but in loss of innocent lives. Each year about 40,000 Americans die from firearm injuries. Many of these are young children or teenagers playing with guns their parents left loaded and unattended in their homes. Sometimes the guns are hidden, but often they are in plain view.

There is rarely justification for having loaded weapons in the household. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that guns in the home were 43 times more likely to kill a family member or friend than an intruder.

Having loaded guns in a house is a risk in many different ways. Toddlers and young children think they are toys and accidentally shoot themselves or others. A depressed teenager might find a loaded gun during a very vulnerable period in his life and carelessly take his own life. Most successful teenage suicides are committed with guns.

Guns are a significant risk during domestic quarrels. Women are especially at risk, but there is also risk to children, men, relatives, neighbors, bystanders, and police.

There will always be people who want to own guns. And there are many good reasons for owning guns, such as hunting, sport shooting, collecting, and investing. However, guns must be stored safely. That includes having the guns locked up and not loaded. The ammunition should be locked up in a place separate from the gun. And every time you pick up a gun, check the breech.

Finally, trigger locks are an inexpensive and easy way to prevent a gun from being fired accidentally or used impulsively. If you own guns, store them in a safe way — it can prevent accidents and even deaths.

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