The North Carolina chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots networks, released the following statement calling on officials to promote secure firearm storage after newly-released research indicated that child firearm deaths nearly doubled in the past year.
“There is absolutely no reason why a child should be wounded or killed by a gun, and there is no reason why a child should be able to get their hands on one either,” said Grace McLain, a volunteer with the North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action. “The onus is on adults to keep guns out of reach from children and teens. North Carolina lawmakers should take action to promote secure storage and keep our kids and communities safe.”
Research reported to the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force in late September shows children 17 and under being harmed or killed by gunfire at alarming rates. According to the figures, child firearm deaths rose 88% from 56 to 105 last year — the most since at least 1999. The previous high was 62 deaths in 2018. Of the children killed by gun violence last year, 64 died from assaults, up from the 36 reported in 2019. Similarly, self-inflicted firearm deaths doubled to 31.
These statistics run parallel to yet another disturbing trend taking place in the state. As students returned to school this fall, districts across North Carolina saw a growing number of weapons being brought onto campuses. According to WSOC-TV, 15 guns have been found in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools this year. And in Winston-Salem Forsyth County, five guns have been found on school grounds in the last month alone — almost five times the county’s monthly average from the 2018-2019 school year, according to local reporting.
In an average year, 104 North Carolinian children and teens die by guns, making guns the second leading cause of death among the state’s youth population. Even in incidents that don’t turn violent, children with guns pose a grave threat to themselves and others. For fiscal year 2020-2021, the News & Observer reported a 19% increase in kids 15 and under being charged with nonviolent firearm offenses compared to three years ago.
In October, Everytown released a detailed list of executive actions the Biden-Harris Administration could take to help prevent gun violence in schools and keep kids safe. Among the top recommendations was to promote the secure storage of firearms, which the Administration recently announced would be a significant part of its initiative to prevent gun suicide. State and local leaders in North Carolina can follow suit and help keep kids safer by considering secure storage policies and other proactive solutions to stop them from gaining access to firearms.
The Be SMART program, developed by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Moms Demand Action, helps parents and other adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries.
The program encourages parents and adults to:
- Secure all guns in their home and vehicles
- Model responsible behavior around guns
- Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes
- Recognize the role of guns in suicide
- Tell your peers to be SMART
For more information on the Be SMART program and how to safely secure your firearms, visit the Be SMART website. Additional information about unintentional shootings is here. If you are interested in speaking with a policy or research expert, or a volunteer with the North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action, please don’t hesitate to reach out.