Across the country, children are anxiously waiting for the final bell of the school year to ring in summer break. During this time of year, my two kids were always full of energy and ready for the warm weather and hours spent outside with friends, neighbors and extended family. They’re older now, but in those first few days of playdates, picnics and barbecues there was one thing that was always on my mind: is there a gun where my children are playing?
More than 18,000 American children and teens are injured or killed by guns every year, making firearms the second leading cause of death for young people. These numbers are tragic and shocking, but they also shouldn’t be a surprise when an astonishing 1 in 3 homes with children have guns, many of which are left unlocked or loaded. This is why I ask—and encourage all other parents to do the same—this life-saving question of fellow parents, friends and relatives: “is there a gun in the home where my child plays?”
And this is why the Brady Campaign developed the ASK (Asking Saves Kids) campaign: to prevent as many unintentional youth firearm deaths as possible by spreading the message that guns in the home increase the risk of an accidental shooting or suicide. We know that the safest home for a child is one without a gun, but this isn’t an attack on the Second Amendment rights of Americans or gun owners. We simply believe that parents who choose to keep a gun in the home should take steps to reduce the risk of a tragedy by making sure it is properly locked and stored separately from live ammunition.
And teachers and fellow parents, and even doctors and childcare professionals, can all play an important role in spreading the word about this critical public health and child safety issue.
More than 80 percent of unintentional firearm deaths of children under 15 occur in a home. No child should become a statistic, so we should all bring this topic up every time we have the chance. From one parent to another, I know you may worry that this conversation could get uncomfortable. But I also know that awkward topics just come with the territory of having children, and that this one question can lead to a host of productive discussions that may save a kid’s life. In the same way that you make sure peanut butter sandwiches won’t be served at a party in your home or classroom if your child has a nut allergy, or when you inquire about rules at a sleepover, asking about guns should be a regular question.
We’ve put together some tools that make it easier to start these conversations, and share this message with your friends, family, communities, and networks. Download our ASK Toolkit, which is chock full of tips, resources, and statistics and has everything you need to get started as a leader on this issue in your community. Read the PTA letter that you can share with other parents to get them involved in this movement.
As parents and teachers, all we want is for our children to grow up into healthy, happy adults. I know I would do anything to make that dream a reality, and I’m sure you would, too. By neglecting the topic of guns, we ignore a critical opportunity to ensure our children have the chance to grow up into those adults that we want them to become.
Dan Gross is President of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence