The Most Easily Preventable Form of Gun Violence

unnamedIn these first six days of August, in less than a week, ten American children were accidentally shot with firearms that should have been inaccessible to them. In 2013, the USA proudly hovered at about 100 children shot unintentionally with firearms that should have been inaccessible to them. And it seems like 2014 may outdo its predecessor.

As of this writing, a Long Island, NY 3-year-old shot in the abdomen was the latest case of a child shot by accident. The father, an officer with the MTA didn’t mean to shoot his son. The child will live, and let’s hope his abdominal injuries don’t plague him with pain and disability for the rest of his life. Does that sound cold? Not as cold as the guy who hid his gun under a house and ran away after a 5-year-old shot a 3-year-old with it.

Details are often murky in cases like these — for some reason adults don’t always want to be open and honest about how such accidents happen. What with responsible gun ownership and all.

Almost half of all gun-owning homes with children have at least one unsecured firearm. Maybe it’s in the nightstand. Maybe it’s on top of the refrigerator. Maybe it’s in a zipped up case at the back of the closet. Maybe it’s in a secret shelf at the bottom of the coffee table. Maybe it’s in the purse hanging by the door. Maybe it’s in a backpack that children have been told never to touch. But in 43% of homes with both firearms and children 14 and under, at least one firearm is unsecured.

That’s why it’s so important to talk to friends, family, neighbors, the parents of your child’s new friend about keeping guns locked up and away from children. As caretakers, we may ask about car seats, allergies, trampolines, pools, pets, helmets, and inhalers. We need to start talking about firearms in the home as well. At a loss? Use this to get the conversation started.

Keep in mind that the sad stories we hear about unintentional shootings of children are the times a bullet hit a child. We don’t hear about the near misses, the walking in on a child before a trigger is pulled. These negligent situations are the easiest form of gun violence to end. There are no politics. There is no excuse. There is no justification. In cases where there are children in a gun-owning home, whether they live there or are visiting, all firearms must be secured — that’s locked away, not hidden super well — and locked and kept away from children.

Oh, and hey. Yeah, BB guns too.

For more information or to read up on your own, here are some documents of varying lengths.

Talking About Responsible Gun Storage

Quick Facts — More Quick Facts

Find Our Your State’s Child Access Prevention Laws

Full Everytown Report: Innocents Lost (PDF)


spreading the word via the yeah write moonshine grid.

About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to car culture, dealing with leaving a career I loved, and spouting off along the way. Do The Most Good.
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16 Responses to The Most Easily Preventable Form of Gun Violence

  1. Natalie DeYoung says:

    Such good points here. The one that speaks loudest to me?
    “As caretakers, we may ask about car seats, allergies, trampolines, pools, pets, helmets, and inhalers.”
    Guns and gun storage should be at the TOP of that list.

    • It’s just a tough conversation because it’s been such a polarizing and political topic. But considering that the number has gone up to 16 for August since I published this…it’s got to be asked!

  2. Melanie L. says:

    Why is it that we are afraid to ask about guns in the home? Is it an assumption that there are no guns to ask about or are we avoiding a presumed defensive or confrontational response? I don’t know why but I know that you are so right!!

    • It can be uncomfortable, but I have found that being matter-of-fact, and knowing what YOUR response will be regardless of the answer you receive is helpful. If someone answers with “Yes, and they are in a safe place” is that enough, or do you ask to see where? If someone offers to show you where a firearm is kept, do you want to enter their home and see?

      And if someone accuses you of not trusting them as a responsible gun owner, remember that it’s your child’s safety — and yours that is at stake. That’s worth a little discomfort, in my book.

  3. Marcy says:

    My teenage son had a few friends over for his birthday, and one of the parents called up to ask if we had guns in our home (we don’t). I was surprised as this had never come up before by us or others, but I was also very impressed. Yes, why don’t we ask about such a dangerous threat?

  4. Growing up around firearms (Dad kept the ammo locked away in a separate location; we didn’t have access to or knowledge of the keys), I assumed most families had them. It wasn’t until a friend’s dad talked about firearms with my parents before a sleepover that I thought there *might* be some concern. It just wasn’t something discussed with much urgency, kwim? Now it’s a totally different conversation. I totally agree w/ your post; all it takes is a few minutes to make sure your firearms (and ammo) are secured.

    • Hi Mollie — Thank you for the comment. It’s responsible gun owners who will need to take the gun safety conversation to a higher level. You clearly had a positive example of how to keep arms safely; let’s hope that’s the direction more and more people take!

  5. Thank you so, so much for writing this! Without getting into the politics (which you manged to do quite nicely) it is something that terrifies me as I have 2 little ones who get asked to their friend’s houses frequently. Sometimes, as adults, we are afraid to offend or to make a “big deal” about things, until sadly it is too late. Thank you again.

    • Hi Patricia! I do believe it’s about overcoming the discomfort in asking — and for some reason, likely the politics or the hyperbolic assertions of a vocal but tiny minority, this safety issue is fraught with hesitation and discomfort.

      Thank you for reading!

  6. Jen says:

    Do you know it has NEVER occurred to me to ask a friend’s parents if there are guns in their houses? Thank you for this, I’m totally going to start asking now!

  7. inNateJames says:

    Your article made my mind boggle a little when I realized I was raised in a home with an air-gun repair business in my basement. That’s dozens of guns not locked up in my home and not ever thinking that was strange before now.

    • Thank you for the comment, James. I’m not sure that it’s a question of “strange” or “normal.” It used to be normal to have kids ride in the facing backwards seats without seat belts. I loved riding back there and waving at people! And I never got hurt doing it. However, since the culture (and laws) have changed regarding seat belts, many many lives have been saved.

      That’s how I see it, anyway.

  8. Lance says:

    What Natalie said.

    I live in Ga with a new law we call Guns Anywhere. It’s ridiculous how this society places cold, hard steel over children.

    • I’m sheltered here in NJ, where we have some of the toughest firearm legislation in the country, and we’ve still had frightening close calls and tragedies involving unsecured firearms. Not to mention being the #1 importer of illegal firearms in the USA. We’re #1!

      That GA law is utterly misguided — made clear when we consider that the state house does not allow firearms…if the legislature says it’s okay everywhere else, why not in their place of work? And as a teacher — oy vey! The idea is insane to allow parents (sometimes irate) and teachers (sometimes frustrated) to carry in school?

      Anyway, clearly, you can tell I could go on…

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