Moms, it’s time to have a serious conversation about kids, guns, and safety. Far too often there is another story in the news about a child who has been shot and killed because of access to an unsecured, loaded gun. None of us wants to read about—or even think about—these unintentional deaths. Yet they keep happening.
But the good news is that we can all work to keep kids safer by introducing five easy steps in our everyday lives. These steps are part of the Be SMART campaign, a program that was created to bring together all responsible adults to reduce suicides and the number of unintentional shootings that occur when children get ahold of an unsecured firearm.
Here are the five steps:
S — Secure guns in homes and vehicles
All guns should be stored locked and unloaded, separate from ammunition. Kids are curious, and they will explore. A Harvard study found that 70 percent of kids under age 10 know where their parents’ guns are stored. So no, the top drawer of your dresser is not a secure spot to keep your gun. Don’t just hide it—secure it.
M — Model responsible behavior
We do so much to protect our kids. We make sure they’re buckled up tight in their car seats, we put plug covers in every single outlet, and we never let little ones use the stove unsupervised. Before bringing a weapon into the home, adults should consider risk factors in the home, like vulnerability to mental illness or substance abuse. All adults should plan to practice safe handling at all times. Every year, around 100 kids are killed in unintentional shootings. It’s not enough to just tell kids to stay away from guns and trust that they will listen to us. It’s on us, the adults, to model responsible behavior and make sure kids don’t have access to guns.
A — Ask about unsecured guns in other homes
Playdates are AWESOME. But before you send your kids to a friend’s house, the babysitter’s, or even to Grandma’s, ask the right questions. Find out if there are guns in the home, and how they’re stored. It can definitely feel awkward to ask, but with 4.6 million kids living in homes with guns that are loaded and unlocked, it’s incredibly important.
R — Recognize the risks of teen suicide
Each year over 400 kids, age 17 and under, die by suicide with a gun. We need to recognize the risks of teen suicide, and the presence of a gun is one of those risks. Teens are impulsive and don’t always make the best decisions. If a teen has access to a firearm in one of those vulnerable moments, an impulsive decision can become a fatal one. When a firearm is involved, the fatality rate of attempted suicide is 85 percent. Watch for warning signs, like a change in mood or behavior, and get help for your teen. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
T — Tell your peers to Be SMART
Talk to your friends and family about kids, guns, and safety, and share the message on social media. Start a conversation, and talk about what we can do to keep our kids safe.
Want to learn more or share this information with your neighborhood community organization, church group, or PTA? A local Be SMART team can come to your group meeting and give a 20-minute presentation, or they can set up an information table at your event. They’ll even hand out FREE gun locks.
To schedule an event in Johnson, Wyandotte, or Miami counties in Kansas, email [email protected]. On the Missouri side, reach out to [email protected] for more information. Be SMART is a national campaign, so programs should be widely available throughout the United States.
Find more resources here, including info on how to Be SMART around the holidays and how to talk to your children about guns. Together, we can keep our kids safer and save lives.