Background: Unintentional firearm injuries are an important cause of preventable deaths and disabilities among children. Keeping firearms at home and letting children to see or touch them increases the risk of injury. Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted to estimate the extent of the firearm problem in an Anatolian province in Turkey. A random sample of families were approached and were asked to answer a series of questions completed by research assistants. Results: In 974 randomly selected households, there were 2129 children aged less than 18 years, 11.1% of the fathers have a job in the firearms industry or in the security sector, and 12.3% of the households kept a firearm at home. Only 25.6% of the firearms were kept in a safe place, and 29.3% of the firearms and ammunition were kept separately. Overall, 70.9% of the children whose parents have firearms saw the firearm and 27.2% had handled it. Conclusions: Results of this study pointed to the urgent need for preventive measures for the physical separation of guns from children. The establishment of effective firearms safety programmes requires an understanding of the culture and routine behaviours of the target population. © 2007 The Authors; Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.