Firearm Safety

Guns are the leading cause of death among children ages 1-17 years old in Illinois. In 2020, nearly 2 in 5 U.S. youth ages 10-14 who died by suicide used a firearm. That’s why it’s more important than ever for parents and caregivers to know how secure firearm storage works. Even if you’re not a gun owner yourself, there is a role for everyone in the conversation around secure gun storage. Health care providers should routinely ask parents and caregivers about the presence of firearms in the home and how they are stored. 

Firearm Laws

Medical professionals are required to make a report when they determine a patient poses a Clear and Present Danger to themselves or others. Read here about how to set up an account on the Illinois State Police (ISP) Law Enforcement portal. In an emergency, contact the Illinois State Police, Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center at 877-455-7842.

  • Prohibits any person from leaving their firearm unlocked and accessible to a minor under the age of 14.
  • Requires safe storage measures to restrict access to guns by minor children.
  • Includes criminal penalties when a child causes death or injury using an accessible and unlocked firearm.
  • Read the law here

  • Allows law enforcement or immediate family members who are concerned about a loved one hurting themselves or others to petition a court to remove the firearms from that individual for a limited amount of time.
  • Health care providers can offer information to patients/families about firearm restraining orders, especially in cases where there are known risks for suicide or domestic/intimate partner violence.
  • Learn more here.

Navigating Firearm Conversations

Again, it is important to screen caregivers for access to firearms in the home and provide resources to ensure that firearms are kept safe.

  • Make it part of the normal safety conversation you have with your children. Repeat it on a regular basis. 
  • Keep the language simple: "If you see a gun, don't touch it. Tell an adult right away."
  • Remember that talking to children about guns is a precaution, not a guarantee of safety.

  • Include it in your general safety conversation about topics like drugs, alcohol, and drunk driving. 
  • Tell them not to listen to a friend who says a gun is unloaded or otherwise safe.
  • Tell them to immediately leave any situation where an unsecured gun is present. For example, they could say, "Mom just texted me that I have to get home right now."

  • It doesn't need to feel awkward to bring up the issue of how guns are stroed. These simple conversations with your friends, caregivers, and relatives before your child visits can help save lives.
  • Try "sandwiching" your question amongst other questions and information. For example, you could say, "I know my son hasn't been to your home before and I do like to ask a few safety questions. He is skittish around dogs, do you have any? Also, do you own any firearms, and if so, how are they stored? Finally, will they be playing video games? We only allow limited time on ones rated 'E.' He doesn't have any allergies. For future reference, no pets and no firearms at our home. Thanks so much."
  • Refer to the Not an Accident map. For example, you could say, "After hearing about a recent unintentional shooting in the area, I just have to ask: how are your guns stored?"
  • If you are a gun owner, volunteer information about your own secure gun storage habits, and let your friends and family know that you are open to having the conversation with them.

Safe Storage

Always store firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. Locking devices can be purchased wherever guns and firearm accessories are sold. 

Choose the secure gun storage solution that works for your lifestyle, priorities, and environment. Some options include a full-size gun safe, a lock box/locker, a console/vehicle gun safe, a gun case, a cable lock, or a trigger lock. Check out the resources below to learn more about each of these solutions. 

Remember that the safest home for a child is one without firearms – consider storing firearms outside the home. Local police departments can help with community programs, resources, and offsite storage options. 

Please contact if you are a local pediatric health care provider looking to provide safe firearm storage mechanisms to your patients.

Firearm Disposal

  • Contact your local law enforcement agency or visit their website to find out if they have a gun buy back/take back program. Also check their events calendar to see if they host gun buy back events.
  • The National Center for Unwanted Firearms safely disposes or repurposes unwanted firearms. Firearms may be donated or sold and the organization will send a shipping label and box to securely mail the firearm in.
  • Contact a licensed gun dealer to learn about options to sell or discard your firearm.



The above material was adapted from the following resources.