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Twenty years ago, my husband's teenage cousin was killed while he and a friend were horsing around with his mother's handgun. Needless to say, his death devastated the family. When our son was born, my husband and I decided that along with asking questions about seat-belt use and inappropriate movies, we'd also always find out about guns.

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Because I ask, I've discovered some things I wouldn't have expected. I learned that, as homeowners without guns, we're in the minority on our block. I found out about a politically liberal mother who keeps a locked and unloaded gun in her home. And I know of another family who has several handguns and shotguns with trigger locks, and who says they keep the ammunition stored separately.

Although I almost always feel nervous asking, not one person has ever seemed upset by my question. What's most remarkable to me is that before leaving a child in my care no one has ever asked me whether I keep guns in my home. Parents seem willing to discuss almost any intimacy: breastfeeding, co-sleeping, spanking, how much their home has appreciated, the tawdry details of the latest Hollywood or Washington sex scandal. But they're oddly reticent when it comes to talking about firearms. Socially, it just seems easier to assume that a playdate's parents are taking adequate measures to protect him from guns.

Sadly, that's not always the case: According to a recent report in Pediatrics , nearly 1. So most experts agree that maintaining a head-in-the-sand posture on gun safety is a cop-out that puts kids at serious risk. But it's a common one. A study by San Francisco General Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that parents are more confident than they should be about how well they protect kids from getting their hands on household guns.

“He’s Got a Gun!” — What to Do If Someone Sees Your Concealed Carry Gun

In 39 percent of families where parents said their 5- to year-olds didn't know where guns were stored, the kids actually did know the location. In 22 percent of homes where the parents said their children had never handled a gun, the kids told researchers that they had. When children can get their hands on guns, the danger is clear. They see a gun; they shoot it," says Graham Snyder, M. That's what they see on TV or in the movies.

The urge to fight or flee may overcome you

The good news is that, in recent years, there's been a growing awareness about gun safety, with physicians leading the charge. Last year, Virginia legislators considered a bill that could have suspended or revoked the license of any doctor who asked patients questions about gun ownership.

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  4. The measure failed, but by a close margin. Schools, too, have begun to include gun safety as part of their regular curriculum, albeit slowly.

    One of the best-known initiatives is the "Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program," created by the National Rifle Association, which aims to educate children on what to do if they find themselves in the presence of a gun. A program for pre-kindergartners through third-graders, for instance, teaches children who see a gun to: "Stop! Don't touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult. While such initiatives help raise awareness, experts say that warning kids about the danger of firearms isn't enough to keep them safe.

    Indeed, numerous studies by Marjorie Hardy, Ph. Petersburg, Florida, have shown that the powerful allure of a gun -- especially for boys -- easily outmatches the sternest warnings.


    What to Do When Your Guns and Ammo are Stolen

    In one study, a police officer spoke to a class of 60 kids, ages 4 to 6. The children were told, "Don't touch guns—they're dangerous. If you see a gun, leave the area. Go tell an adult. Hardy says, "they picked them up and shot everything in sight. In a second study, a group of 4- to 7-year-olds got five days of lectures on resisting peer pressure , making good choices, and distinguishing toys from dangerous objects. Even then, when left alone with a gun, 65 percent of the children picked it up and played with it.

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    Next, establish eye contact with the assailant. It sounds simplistic, but looking into their eyes forces them to acknowledge, if only to themselves, your humanity in this situation. Know your assailant: Not every gun-toting criminal is created equal. Here are some considerations for each of the above scenarios. A robber is simply using the gun to increase their chances of success and as an insurance policy — the point is still your wallet or purse. Give it to them. A hostage taker is using you as a means to an end — simple leverage.

    I have a mental disorder. This is what happened when I tried to buy a gun.

    This, contrary to media portrayals, most often won't take the form of being a pawn in a grand bank robbery scheme. It will more often be you being gathered up as a personal hostage for get-away collateral.

    A kidnapping changes the metrics significantly. No two gunpoint situations are alike, and they will all be very dynamic situations.