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This article was written by an active volunteer for a NC chapter of Moms Demand Action, a non-partisan, grassroots organization founded in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. This organization is a part of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country. Julie’s involvement with this organization has given her invaluable information about how to keep our kids safe.
When you have kids, it often feels like you have a lot to worry about. The main concern for most parents is their safety. You want to do everything you can to provide a safe environment for them. You make sure they are around safe people, that they don’t hurt themselves with careless behavior and that you keep them away from things that can be harmful. Their personal safety is your top priority.
A critical part of keeping kids safe that’s sometimes overlooked is gun safety. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, firearms are the second leading cause of death for children and teens1. That is a pretty frightening statistic, and it proves the need for parents to begin a conversation about gun safety for kids as early as possible.
- The Rise of School Shootings
- How I’m Taking Action
- Be SMART Program For Kids
- Responsible Gun Storage
- Talk To Your Kids
- Talk To Other Parents
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary happened over a year before my first child was born. Even though I was devastated to hear about this tragic event when it happened, I had no idea how much more it would affect me once my son was born. When you have a child, something changes. It’s one thing to feel empathy for a parent who has lost a child, but it’s another to be able to picture yourself in that situation and fear for the loss of your own child. It becomes much more real.
Fast forward to February 14, 2018, when a gunman walked into Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. For me, this hit way too close to home. I grew up in South Florida. I have been to school competitions and events at that very school. My niece was sitting in a classroom only 45 minutes away from where this was happening. That day changed my perspective. These grieving parents could be any of us. These children could be any of our children, including mine. I knew I had to do something to help keep children safe from gun violence and learn more about gun safety for kids.
Starting last March, I began to volunteer for the local chapter of Moms Demand Action. This non-partisan, grassroots organization was founded by Shannon Watts the day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. This organization is a part of Everytown for Gun Safety, which is the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country. Everytown does comprehensive research on gun violence and makes recommendations on how we can make communities safer. Being a part of this organization has helped me learn a lot more about how to keep our kids safe.
One of the most informative programs to come out of Moms Demand Action is Be SMART for kids2. This program was designed to raise awareness about child gun deaths and teaches adults how they can keep kids safe.
The SMART acronym represents 5 simple steps to prevent accidental gun deaths:
- 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 role of firearms in suicides
- Tell your peers to Be SMART
The information presented in this program can help adults think about gun safety and how to prevent children from gaining access to a gun. Over 3,000 volunteers around the country are trained to present this program and help parents learn about gun safety for kids.
Before this program, I never realized how many people fail to understand the importance of safe, responsible gun storage. Secure storage of firearms is the first line of defense when you are thinking about how to protect kids from guns. It is never a child’s responsibility to protect themselves from finding a gun. It is always an adult’s responsibility to make sure that the guns that they own are stored responsibly.
So what does responsible storage mean? It means that guns are stored, locked and unloaded in a place that’s inaccessible to children. Gun safes are the best option. You can read this article to learn about gun safe options and which ones are best for the money.
Another essential part of gun safety for kids is learning to talk about them. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, research shows that an estimated 4.6 million American children live in homes with at least one gun that is loaded and unlocked1. That’s why it’s vital to talk to your children about what to do when they encounter a gun and to speak to other adults about how they store their guns before you let your child enter their home. These two conversations can save your child’s life.
Teach Your Kids To Act Responsibly
It’s important to normalize this conversation with your child by starting it when they are very young and talking about it often. You need your child to understand how important this is so if they encounter a gun, they will remember your words. When talking to your child, there are a few main points you want to make clear.
- It is never ok to handle a gun without a responsible adult present.
- If you see a gun: don’t touch it, tell your friends not to touch it, walk away and find a responsible adult to tell immediately. Even if you think it might be a toy, don’t risk it.
The other conversation that needs to be normalized is parents talking to other parents about how guns are stored in their homes. This really shouldn’t be as hard as it seems. When your child is going to someone else’s house, there is already a list of questions you’re going to ask. Just be sure to ask if there is a gun in the home and how it is stored.
My favorite part of the Be SMART program is the A. Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes. They suggest different ways to start this conversation and role-play how it may go. It’s extremely helpful in building your confidence when it comes to this task. After seeing the presentation and having this conversation a few times now, it feels like second nature to me, and I don’t think twice about it.
Keep Your Children Safe
Gun safety for kids is an extremely important topic. All adults need to think about this because it is our responsibility to keep kids safe. Visit these websites for more information about Moms Demand Action or the Be SMART program, and visit our gun safety guide for more resources.
How do you teach your children about gun safety?
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