Many parents are apprehensive about asking each other, prior to a play date, if there are guns in the home, much less if the guns are stored safely. But that’s exactly the conversation responsible parents need to be having to keep our children safe. Here are some tools and resources to help you address a crucial safety matter without hesitation.
Let’s get that dialogue started, shall we? Not sure where to begin? Neither were we. So, we reached out to Andrea Halperin, the Orlando lead for Moms Demand Action, to help us create our script for bringing up the topic without sounding like an overprotective (read: annoying) parent.
Moms Demand Action is well known as a bipartisan lobbying group for stricter gun laws across the nation. However, it’s a lesser known fact that this organization also started the Be SMART campaign in an effort to provide resources to parents on gun safety issues such as how to discuss gun safety with their children, how to properly store guns in homes and vehicles and how to have the discussion with other parents and family members about keeping the guns in their homes away from curious children. BeSmartForKids.org is a great place for parents to get started with educating themselves and gathering tools to make these discussions less awkward.
Did you know?
- A national survey found that 1.7 million kids in the U.S. live in homes with guns that are loaded and unlocked.
- Twenty-two states have no laws requiring responsible gun storage.
- More than 75 percent of unintentional shootings by children occurred in the victim’s home or car.
- Toddlers ages 2-4 are at the greatest risk of dying from a self-inflicted, unintentional gunshot wound. Kids ages 12-17 are at the greatest overall risk of dying from an unintentional gunshot wound inflicted by another person.
- There are nearly 300 unintentional shootings by children every year in the U.S.
*About Statistics from BeSmartForKids.org
So, how does one properly store guns to keep children safe? The National Association of Pediatrics recommends properly locking a firearm and storing it unloaded and separately from ammunition.
Back to that uncomfortable conversation we should all be having about gun safety… Lucky for us, BeSmartForKids.org has published sample scripts that you can use to start the conversation.
What to say to friends
Make it part of a general safety discussion:
Example: “Before I drop off John to play at your house, I just want to check to see if you have a pet, a pool or firearms in your house. I want to make sure he knows your safety rules.”
Don’t wait to be asked; Volunteer information about your own home:
Example: “We have a pool with an alarm and locked gate; no pets or guns in our home,” or “Just want you to know we have a dog and a cat, in case Mary has allergies. We also have a hunting rifle, but we always keep it unloaded and locked in a safe.”
Remember: It’s not about the gun; It’s about whether the gun is secured:
Example: “May I ask, if you do have guns in your home, are they locked and inaccessible to the kids?”
What to say to family
If you know that your family member is a gun owner:
Example: “Hi Mom, we are looking forward to Thanksgiving with the whole family; the kids are so excited to see you and their cousins. I know I’ve never asked this before, but after reading about a 9-year-old boy who shot himself with an unsecured shotgun, I just have to ask. Is your gun locked and unloaded, and is the ammunition stored separately? Tommy and Ellie get into everything, and I don’t want to spend the holidays looking over my shoulder worried about them or the rest of the kids. I’m happy to purchase gun locks if you don’t have them.”
If you don’t know that your family member is a gun owner:
“Hi Cindy, I’m checking off the list of things we need to get done before we come for Thanksgiving! The kids can’t wait to see their cousins, and I am happy to be in charge of the pumpkin pie. Tommy and Ellie have been getting into everything these days, and I don’t know if you saw the story about a 9-year-old boy who shot himself with an unsecured shotgun — it really shook me. I don’t even know if you own guns, and how you store them if you do.” If she says she does own guns: “Thanks for telling me. It’s important to me that the guns are stored locked and unloaded, with ammunition stored separately, so that we can all have a relaxing and safe holiday.”
Prefer to Email? Try this Approach
Sometimes these conversations are easier via email. Try “sandwiching” your question between other questions and information.
Example: “Dear Mimi, We will be arriving late Tuesday night and can’t wait to see the whole family! Tommy and Ellie are so excited to sleep over. I know Pop-Pop is a hunter, but I don’t know if he keeps any guns at the cabin. If he does, are they locked, unloaded and inaccessible to the kids? Please also let me know what I can contribute to the meal. We are so excited to see you. All our love, Sue”
- Use technology to your advantage. If you don’t want to talk face-to-face, have the conversation via email or text.
- Don’t forget to talk to family. Many unintentional shootings happen in the homes of the child’s relatives. It’s very possible that family members or close friends have unsecured guns in their home. Never make assumptions when a child’s safety is at stake.
Now you have the tools and some great examples of how to start this conversation with your friends and family. The more we talk about gun safety, the more people will become aware of the simple steps that help keep our children safe.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America launched the Be SMART campaign to promote responsible gun ownership and reduce child gun deaths. The campaign focuses on education and awareness about child gun deaths and responsible gun storage.
Be SMART and take these five simple steps to help prevent shootings by children:
- Secure all guns in your home and vehicles.
- Model responsible behavior around guns.
- Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes.
- Recognize the risks of teen suicide.
- Tell your peers to be SMART.
For more information or to have a Moms Demand Action representative give a 20-minute presentation on gun safety tips at your next event, visit BeSMARTforKids.org.