A new study finds that a majority of U.S. states and territories — 47 out of 56 — do not require home- and center-based child care providers to inform parents when guns are stored on the premises.
The researchers found that fewer than 67 percent of states and territories completely prohibit center-based child care providers from having firearms on the premises and only a handful — 7 of 56 — prohibit home-based child care providers from having firearms on site.
The study also found that nearly a fourth of states and territories (13) had no regulations governing firearms in child care centers, and one-sixth (9) had no regulations governing firearms in family child care homes.
The findings are published online in the journal JAMA Network Open.
There are more than 20 million children age 5 and under in the U.S., and almost two-thirds of them spend a substantial amount of time in center-based or home-based early care and education settings. The study is believed to be the first to systematically examine firearm-related policies that apply to home- and center-based child care settings.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health investigated state regulations covering the presence and storage of firearms at child care facilities in the U.S., including dedicated centers as well as home-based facilities. They reviewed fire-arm regulations, as of June 2019, for early care and education settings in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the five U.S. territories.
The study did not examine the consequences for noncompliance or the number of firearm-related incidents in these settings.
“It’s surprising how few states require notification to parents on whether or not a handgun is present — I think that’s a critical gap that should be filled so that parents can make a more informed decision about child care,” says study first author Sara Benjamin-Neelon, PhD, JD, the Helaine and Sid Lerner Professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Bloomberg School.
Benjamin-Neelon conducted the study with co-author Elyse Grossman PhD, JD, a policy fellow at the Bloomberg School.
Although regulations were more likely to prohibit firearms in child care centers, home-based child care providers generally face restrictions on storage procedures only.
For example, 46 U.S. states or territories require firearms present in home-based child care settings to be kept under lock and key; 29 require the ammunition to be stored separately; and 23 require the firearms to be unloaded.
The lack of fire-arm prohibition in home-based child care settings may stem from legislators’ concerns that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects homeowners’ rights to keep firearms, Benjamin-Neelon says. She notes that there is an ongoing legal challenge against an Illinois law banning guns from homes that serve as child care facilities.
The researchers say they were most surprised by the limited notification requirements, with only 9 of the 56 jurisdictions requiring either operators of child care centers or family child care homes to notify parents when there are firearms present in the home.
“States should consider regulations requiring notification to parents if there’s a firearm on the premises,” Benjamin-Neelon says.
The researchers plan to do more work in this area to determine if stricter laws against firearms correlate with fewer gun-related injuries to children in home- and center-based child care settings.