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Teaching Firearm Safety to Children: Failure of a Program


Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: April 2002 - Volume 23 - Issue 2 - p 71-76
Original Articles

ABSTRACT. The present study investigated the effectiveness of a skills-based firearm safety program on reducing children’s play with firearms. In a randomized control study, 34 children aged 4 to 7 years participated in a week-long firearm safety program; the Control Group was composed of 36 children. After the program, pairs of children were observed playing in a structured setting in which they had access to a semiautomatic pistol. A total of 53% of the pairs played with the gun, and there was no difference in gun-play behavior between those children who did and did not receive the intervention. Interview data revealed significant discrepancies in parent and child reports of parental gun ownership and inaccurate parental predictions of their children’s interest in guns. The results of the current study cast doubt on the potential effectiveness of skills-based gun safety programs for children.

Department of Psychology, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida

Address for reprints: Marjorie Hardy, Department of Psychology, Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S., Saint Petersburg, FL, 33711;

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.