Like all of you, when I heard the news from Parkland, FL on February 14, 2018, my heart fell. As a mom, I felt a combination of extreme sadness and fear. All I could think about was how devastating it would be to lose my daughter, and how angry I was that this happened in our country yet again. The Parkland shooting inspired me to take action in order to make my daughter (and all of our kids) safer.
But what can I do?
Although mass shootings grab headlines and inspire many to take action, gun violence in the home is actually far more prevalent. Upon reading up on gun statistics in my quest to figure out how to make a difference, I learned that 97% of gun deaths are single shootings, many of which are accidental. While I want to make sure my daughter is safe at school, I’ve learned that the most powerful thing I can do is keep her safe at home and in the homes of friends and family.
But how big of a problem are guns in the home anyway?
1.7 million children in the US live in homes that have guns that are loaded and unlocked. This puts each of these kids at high risk for gun death. If we can prevent just one of these children from a gun related accident in the home, we will have taken effective action. Furthermore, children ages two to four are at the greatest risk of dying from a self-inflicted, unintentional gunshot. As the mother of a toddler, this fact terrifies me. No parent should have to bury a child.
The key is to be SMART
Fortunately for all of us, there are a few key actions we can take in order to keep our kids safe around guns. And the five actions have an easy to remember acronym – SMART.
The first step is to SECURE all guns in homes and vehicles. Lock ’em up. Make sure that children do not have access. Store guns and ammunition separately. Both should be locked up and inaccessible to children.
The next is to MODEL responsible behavior around guns. If you are a gun owner and you have children, you have a tremendous opportunity to teach your kids how important responsible gun ownership is. Teach your kids that guns should be stored unloaded in a locked location. Guns are lethal weapons and kids should understand this. Even if you don’t own guns, talk to your kids about what it means to be a responsible gun owner and how they should behave if and when they come across a gun.
The next action is one that I struggle with, but it’s incredibly important. It’s to ASK about unsecured guns in other homes that your child may visit. I realize that sometimes these conversations are difficult or awkward to have, but in having them, you may save your child’s life.
The next is to RECOGNIZE the signs of teen suicide. Nearly 500 children under the age of 17 die by suicide with a gun. Intervening and providing critical support for a teen who might be considering suicide is an incredibly powerful way to help reduce gun deaths in kids. Teenagers can be especially impulsive, and if they have easy access to firearms, the result can be lethal.
The last action is perhaps the most critical, and that’s to TELL others about being SMART! The more parents we make aware of the key steps to gun safety, the more lives we can save together.
I know these actions seem small…
…but they really aren’t. Small, individual actions is how we are going to make the world a safer place for your kids and mine. I hope you will join me in teaching your friends to be SMART.
To learn more visit http://besmartforkids.org/