Just 20 days into the new year, gun violence is devastating families and communities across the country as gun deaths continue to be the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States.
There have been at least four horrific incidents of domestic violence, including the tragedy in Utah in which a man shot and killed his wife, mother-in-law, and five children, and in Michigan where a man reportedly shot and killed his long-term partner and their two young daughters.
There have also been an alarming number of incidents in which small children have had access to a gun, including in Virginia where a six-year-old student shot his teacher, in St. Louis where a three year old was shot and wounded by another child while playing with an unsecured handgun, and in North Carolina where a seven year old was unintentionally shot by an eight year old. In Indiana, video footage of a child in diapers wandering around with a loaded handgun have led to the father’s arrest.
Children and teens aren’t safe from gun violence anywhere in the U.S. – whether it’s outside of a recreation center in St. Paul where a teenager was shot in the head or in Oklahoma where gunfire broke out at an Oklahoma City area high school after a basketball game.
Ending gun violence in America requires a holistic and comprehensive approach from every angle, including at home and through smart public safety policies. Research shows that states with strong gun laws have lower rates of gun violence.
States should pass foundational public safety laws to limit access to those who could be a danger to themselves and others. After resounding support from voters who flipped the Minnesota State Senate, Minnesota lawmakers are pursuing an extreme risk law and a background check bill. In Michigan, where voters just delivered gun sense candidates the majority in the House and Senate, there is a new opportunity to pass life-saving legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
At home, responsible gun owners must keep their guns unloaded, locked, and separate from ammunition to keep guns out of the hands of children and prevent unintentional shootings. State leaders should pursue policies to require secure storage and hold adults who allow children to access their guns accountable. The Indiana legislature, for example, should advance the secure storage legislation that Indiana Democrats plan to introduce this legislative session.
Additionally, states must continue to invest in community-based violence intervention programs which work within the hardest hit communities to break the cycle of violence and save lives.