Be SMART: Secure All Guns in Homes and Vehicles
Principles of safe gun storage
Each year in the U.S., nearly 260 children aged 17 and under gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. Nearly 600 children die by suicide with a gun each year. In Oklahoma, our new reality after November 1st is that guns will be more readily available and accessible in our public spaces due to the passage of a dangerous permitless carry law. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a grassroots volunteer organization focused on public safety measures that prevent gun violence. We have a program called Be SMART that is designed to help parents and adults navigate tough conversations and take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries.
The “S” stands for: Secure all guns in homes and vehicles. The best place to start is by not allowing children to have unsupervised access to guns. Thirteen million households with children contain at least one gun, and in the majority of households, children know where that gun is stored. In incidents of gunfire on school grounds, the majority of shooters under the age of 18 obtained the gun from their home or the homes of relatives or friends. In January of 2018, there was a school shooting in Kentucky at Marshall County High School. It is reported that 15 people were shot and wounded and that two students were killed. The 15 year-old shooter had gained access to his stepfather’s unsecured pistol from his closet.
Keep guns locked, unloaded and stored separately from ammunition. Hiding a gun is not ”securing” a gun. I have spoken with countless parents at community events who believe their guns are secure because they are stored on a high shelf, supposedly out of reach of children. Though these people have good intentions, improper storage like this can lead to tragedy. In May of 2018, a 4-year-old boy from Louisa, Virginia, unintentionally shot his 2-year-old brother after accessing an unsecured gun that was kept ‘high in an upper cabinet’.
Don’t rely on curious kids to keep themselves safe. If your child is anything like mine, even if I tell him several times not to do something, if he is curious he will find a way. Keep in mind that kids may feel a variety of emotions about guns – from curiosity to fascination to fear. As adults, it’s our responsibility to prevent easy access to guns. Research also finds that responsible storage is associated with a decreased risk of firearm suicide and unintentional firearm injury among children. One study showed that households that locked both firearms and ammunition had a 78 percent lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries among children and teenagers. Another study showed that showed that households that locked both firearms and ammunition had an 85 percent lower risk of unintentional firearm injuries.
Some commonly used responsible storage practices include using a cable lock, lockbox, or firearm safe, as well as storing firearms unloaded with ammunition stored separately. Unsecured guns also contribute to the staggering number of guns stolen each year. An estimated 380,000 guns are stolen from private gun owners every year and gun owners were three times more likely to have a gun stolen if they carried a gun in the last month compared to gun owners who did not carry. Research also suggests that nearly one-quarter of stolen guns are taken from cars. So, storing a gun in a glove compartment or underneath a car seat is not considered responsible storage.
We each have the right to make responsible decisions about how to protect our homes, families and communities—including whether or not to have a gun in our home. But we also have the responsibility to protect our children from injury or even death by storing guns responsibly. The steps outlined above can help us do that.
About Moms Demand Action: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (www.momsdemandaction.org) is a grassroots, non-partisan movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence and keep our families safe. Moms Demand Action has a chapter in every state and it is part of the nation’s largest gun violence prevention organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, with more than 5 million supporters. Moms Demand Action works with survivors, mayors, law enforcement officers, faith leaders, educators, gun owners, doctors and communities across the country who know there is more we can do to prevent gun violence. We do this work because every day 100 Americans die from gun violence and hundreds more are wounded.
About Christine: Christine Jackson is the Chapter Leader for the Oklahoma Chapter of Moms Demand Action. She and her husband Neal are parents to two young sons. She was inspired to do the work of helping to end gun violence when she was seven months pregnant with her first son and the tragedy at Sandy Hook happened. She knew then that Mothers like her needed to get involved. She hopes that we will someday get to a place in this country where this work is no longer needed, but will keep going as long as it is.
Christine Jackson, Chapter Leader of the Oklahoma Chapter of Moms Demand Action