We cannot gun-proof our children, so child-proofing our guns is the most important step we can take immediately to save lives. That was the crux of the message that I gave at my school board meeting last night. I added some introductions and acknowledgments and unfortunately went over my 3-minute time limit. A very loud buzzer jolted me because I was so deeply involved in delivering my message, that I lost track of time. Lesson learned, every second counts, literally. But even with my comments ending so abruptly, I think I was able to share the most important talking points. Safe storage saves lives, and we as a school community can be part of the solution!
Here is the message I shared:
Gun deaths of children have spiked by 87% between 2011 and 2021 while child deaths from car crashes fell by nearly half. Gun violence is now the leading cause of death of American children. Gun homicide (mass shootings, community violence, and police-involved shootings) is a universal American threat. But in black and brown communities gun violence is also a racial justice issue, with black and brown children 15 times more likely to experience gun violence than white children and teens.
Almost 5 million children live in homes with loaded, unlocked firearms, while more than half of owners acknowledge storing at least one firearm unsafely, without any locks or other safe storage measures, and nearly a quarter of all gun owners report storing all their firearms in an unlocked location in the home.
Over 80% of child firearm suicides involved a gun obtained from their own home or that of a friend or relative. Suicide rates among children who live in homes with firearms are four times higher than among those in homes without firearms. Most unintentional gun shootings among children occur in or around the home, and most guns used in school shootings where the shooters are under 18 are acquired from the home or the homes of relatives or friends.
The hard fact is that it is violence that acts like a virus, spreading in communities, and invading the safety of schools, churches, movie theaters, parks, front stoops, and homes. Unlocked and loaded guns, left in homes for children & teens to access have added to the epidemic of gun violence in our country.
We now have more weapons than people in our country by almost 100 million. The point is that guns are among us, we have to learn to live safely with them. No matter where you personally stand on gun ownership, we can find common ground in creating safe spaces for our children & teens. We can be sure that if we choose to own a gun, we know how to store it safely & not make it accessible to children & youth.
Reducing young people’s access to unlocked and loaded firearms can prevent firearm-involved deaths. Gun-owning parents can help by storing all firearms in a secure manner – such as in a locked gun safe or with a trigger or cable lock – and unloading them so they are not accessible to children or teens within the household.
Since we cannot gun-proof children, it’s up to adults to child-proof their Guns. – Dr. Arthur Kellerman