On Christmas Eve 1997, my 12-year-old son, Brian, was at a friend’s house. They spent the day together, shopping at the mall for Christmas gifts and ended the day at this friend’s house playing video games. At 3:45 p.m., our daughter called her brother to tell him to come home so they could get ready for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration held at our home with friends and family.
While Brian was on the phone, his friend decided to show him the gun he recently discovered in his mother’s room. He thought he removed all the bullets, but one remained stuck in the barrel. He pulled back the hammer three times and heard the click. Click. Click. On the third click, the gun fired and hit Brian in the neck, just as he was hanging up the phone. His last words to his friend were, “I can’t believe you shot me!”
Since Brian’s death, I have made it my mission to get the word out to gun owners, parents, family and friends about the dangers of guns left accessible to children. I especially want to raise awareness of this important issue now, during Safe Schools Week. Far too often, these unsecured guns are brought to our nation’s schools with the intent to harm. The majority of guns used in school shootings are taken from the home.
Tragedies can be avoided if we, as parents, take simple steps to ensure guns are inaccessible to our children:
- Secure firearms in the home. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises the safest home for children is one without a firearm. Parents who choose to own guns should keep them locked, unloaded and stored separately from ammunition.
- Ask about the presence of unlocked firearms in other homes: The Asking Saves Kids (ASK) Campaign encourages parents to always ask, “Is there an unlocked gun in your house?” when arranging their child’s play dates or visits to another home.
There are many ways to bring this life-saving message to parents in your district. Visit the ASK Kit, which has resources to help you raise awareness such as:
- Talking Points about ASK for your next PTA meeting
- A fact sheet on the connection between school safety and firearms in the home
- A template letter that you can send to parents in your district
We have the power to make our schools, homes and communities safer. Let’s start practicing ‘safety first’ today!
Ann Marie Crowell lives in Saugus, Mass. She is a spokeswoman for the ASK Campaign.