Last week, an 11-year-old boy shot and killed himself while online learning at home in Woodbridge, California. A week earlier, a 12-year-old boy in Henderson, North Carolina shot and wounded a classmate of the same age at Henderson Middle School. These heartbreaking shootings are a reminder of the consequences when children get a hold of unsecured guns.
As children and teens continue to stay home from school because of the pandemic and holiday breaks allow for more free time, isolation and boredom, the importance of storing guns securely cannot be understated. Storing guns locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition keeps guns out of kids’ hands and can save lives.
Unintentional shootings by children have increased in recent months as many Americans have remained at home during the COVID-19 crisis. So far in 2020, there have been at least 261 unintentional shootings by children 17 and younger in which they shot themselves or others. This year, there was a 43% increase in unintentional shootings between March and April, compared to average gun deaths during these same two months over the last 3 years.
Additionally, the firearm suicide rate among young people has increased faster than in any other age group. Each year, nearly 3,000 young people die by firearm suicide, and secure storage can play crucial role in preventing those deaths.
As gun sales have increased nationwide throughout the pandemic, volunteers with Moms Demand Action have worked to educate their networks and communities about best practices for gun storage. The Be SMART program lays out a series of simple steps to educate adults about how unsecured guns in the home can put children and teens at risk, and spread awareness about the best way to keep them safe. The program asks parents and caretakers, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, to ‘Be SMART’ and take these simple steps:
- Secure all guns in homes and vehicles
- Model responsible behavior
- Ask about firearms in other homes your child visits
- Recognize the role of guns in suicide
- Tell your peers to Be SMART
Read more about local efforts from volunteers and local officials to keep guns out of the hands of children and teens here. Find more information on how to responsibly cover gun suicide here.
If you are a survivor of gun suicide and gun violence, resources from the Everytown Survivor Network are available here. If you are struggling and need to talk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always open: 800-273-8255.