Gun study: 1-in-3 homes with kids at risk of suicide keep guns locked, unloaded

A Seattle pediatrician suggests locking up the guns may not be enough to keep those kids safe.

One-in-three households in America that have a child with a history of depression, ADHD, or other mental health issues keep firearms in the house locked an unloaded. That's the finding of a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The AAP report says in 2015 -- the most recent year for available mortality data -- suicide was the second-leading cause of death for children between 10 and 17. In that group, 40 percent of suicides involved using a gun. Read the study

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The survey found that 34.9 percent of parents or caretakers have their guns locked and unloaded in a home where children at risk of harming themselves live. Over half -- 53.5 percent -- say they have guns that are either loaded and locked or unloaded and unlocked. 11.6 percent of these gun owners say they store their guns loaded and unlocked.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician at Seattle Children's, says in addition to keeping guns locked and unloaded, there is an important tip gun-owning parents can follow if they have a child at risk of harming themselves: Get the guns out of the house.

"If you've got someone in your home who's got mental illness, who is depressed, who has shown suicidality or signs of less joy, sadness, not engaged in their life, you're concerned about their levels of sadness, it's not just even storing guns safely," Swanson said. "It's getting (guns) out of that home and getting them out of a home where a child or a teen, in particular, might visit."

She adds that data shows most kids know where the guns are stored and know the codes to access the locks.

Swanson also suggests leaving ammunition in a separate place from the gun.

Of those households in the survey that did not have a child at risk of self-harm, 20.3 percent leave guns stored loaded and unlocked. 31.8 percent leave them locked and unloaded, and 48 percent leave them loaded and locked or unloaded and unlocked.

Homes which had a child with a history of mental health conditions had fewer guns on average (3.6) than homes where the child did not have these conditions (4.6), according to the study.

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In a broader look, here's the breakdown of individual categories of gun storage.

In homes with at-risk children:

- Any unlocked gun: 38 percent

- Any locked gun: 62 percent

- Any unloaded gun: 58.7 percent

- Any loaded gun: 41.3 percent

In homes without at-risk children:

- Any unlocked gun: 47.8 percent

- Any locked gun: 52.2 percent

- Any unloaded gun: 57.9 percent

- Any loaded gun: 42.1 percent