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Department of Health News

Gun Safety at Home: Protect Your Family

Protect your children from firearms by storing guns properly and in a safe place. It’s not just a good idea – it’s the law.

If you fail to safely store your firearms, you could pay the price. Not only do you put your children at risk, you also could face fines and/or jail time. You may be guilty of a Photo of a gun with a safety lock on it.Class 1 misdemeanor if a minor gains access to a gun and:

  • Possesses it at school or school-sponsored event;
  • Displays the gun in a public place in a careless or threatening manner;
  • Causes injury or death; or
  • Uses it to commit a crime. (North Carolina General Statue 14-315.1)

If you own a gun, it is your responsibility to store it safely. Here are some gun safety tips to follow:

  • Obey the law. Make sure you understand and follow all laws regarding firearm handling and safety.
    • North Carolina law requires that the owner or possessor of a gun must not store or leave the firearm in a condition that could be accessed and discharged by a minor who resides in the house of the gun owner. A minor is a person who is under 18 years of age.
  • Store all guns safely. Store firearms out of the reach of children and other unauthorized users. Keep them unloaded with the ammunition stored in a separate location.
  • Safe storage doesn’t have to mean hard-to-get-to. If you choose to keep a firearm for home security, ease of access is important to you. But you must resist the temptation to leave a firearm in a location that is also easily accessible to children. Store the firearm in a place that you can quickly reach it, but keep it so that others can’t get to it or so they can’t make it work. Lockable cases or other suitable locking devices (pictured above) sold by gun dealers are excellent ways to keep your firearm close but still limit access.

Talking to your kids (toddlers through teens) about gun safety could be the difference between life and death.

Be a good role model. In addition to talking with your children, show them how to treat firearms safely by treating guns with respect yourself.

Also remember that even though you may securely store your firearms in your own home, your children could have access to guns in someone else’s house.

Teach children what to do if they find a firearm. Tell them:

  • If you find a firearm, STOP! Don’t touch it; leave the area and tell an adult immediately.
  • Never play with guns at a friend or neighbor’s house. Again, if you see a gun, tell an adult right away.
  •  Remind extended family members and other caregivers that they are responsible for safely storing their firearms. Make sure grandparents, aunts and uncles, babysitters and others have their guns stored in locked cases or disabled with trigger locks.

An estimated 82,000 North Carolina children live in homes with an unlocked and loaded gun. Make sure your child is not one of them.

Gun shops sell many different kinds of safes, gunlocks, cases and other security devices designed to make safe storage easy. Gun locks may be available for free in your area; visit or call 1-800-634-7854 for more information.