By Marci Peace, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – Volunteer Be SMART Leader
When the conversation turns to guns, tensions can flare. But we know that gun owners and non-gun owners alike can agree on one thing – we all love our children want to protect them from danger. We can start in homes by making sure our children are safe from unintentional shootings. Thanks to today’s guest blogger, Marci, who is working to keep all of our families safe. ~The TMoM Team
October was a bad month in the Carolinas. In Lexington, a 16-year old stole an unsecured gun from a car and unintentionally shot and injured his sister. In Zionsville, a 13-year old shot a friend while playing with his father’s unsecured shotgun. In Rock Hill, a two-year old found an unsecured handgun in the car and shot his grandmother in the back. So far this year, there have been 12 unintentional child shootings in the Carolinas, resulting in two deaths and ten injuries.
The news isn’t any better across the nation. Through mid-November, Everytown for Gun Safety has tracked at least 225 children that unintentionally injured or killed themselves or others with a gun in 2015. Over 400 more children under the age of 18 commit suicide with a gun each year.
The headlines are scary and we can feel helpless in protecting our children from gun violence, but make no mistake – unintentional shootings are not accidents, child suicides can be reduced, and we are not helpless. That is why Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America developed Be SMART, a public education campaign for adults to reduce shootings that occur when guns are not stored responsibly. With five simple steps, gun owners and non-gun owners can work together to keep our kids safe.
S – Secure guns in your home and vehicles. This is the single most effective way to prevent child gun deaths. In gun-owning households, 70% of children know where their parents store their guns and 36% admit to handling a gun without their parent’s knowledge. We can’t rely on curious kids to keep themselves safe! What does securing a gun mean? Store all guns in a locked location. Store them unloaded and store ammunition separately.
M – Model responsible behavior around guns. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, an organization that represents gun manufacturers, has common sense guidelines for the safe handling of firearms. 1) Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction. 2) Treat every firearm as if it is loaded. 3) Be sure of your target and what’s beyond it. 4) Don’t rely on a gun’s “safety”.
A – Ask about unsecured guns in other homes. 1.7 million children live in homes with guns that are loaded and unlocked. Even if your home is safe, you can’t be sure about a relative or friend’s home. It can feel awkward, but asking about unsecured firearms is no different than asking about allergies, pools, or pets. Use technology and humor to your advantage. Send an email and joke about being “that” overprotective parent. If they do not properly store firearms, have the play date at your house or a local park. Be sure to ask when you visit family members, too.
R – Recognize the risk of teen suicide. One of the most significant risks for teenage suicide, even more so than a psychiatric disorder, is the mere presence of an unsecured firearm. Any parent knows that the tween and teen years can be filled with drama and heartache. These children are especially vulnerable to impulsive decisions fueled by irrationality and hormones. A rash decision can become deadly and the method matters. Suicide attempts with a gun result in death 85% of the time compared to just 2% in overdose attempts.
T – Tell your peers to Be SMART! Talk about gun safety, volunteer to give a presentation, invite a Be SMART presenter to speak at your church, school or club. The old sayings “Knowledge is power” and “It takes a village” are true. When made aware of the dangers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, and neighbors can pledge to make these simple changes. If we all take steps to ensure that guns are stored responsibly, all of our children will be safer.
To learn more about Moms Demand Action, the Be SMART campaign, or how you can become involved in a grassroots movement to end the epidemic of gun violence that affects every community, join us at www.momsdemandaction.org.