Written by Jack D’Aurora
Unsecured guns and children make for a bad mix, and there is a great deal more we can do to keep children safe from accidental gun injuries. Here is what has been happening in Ohio:
June 25, 2016, Cleveland: a 10-year-old boy accidentally shot an 8-year-old boy.
July 16, 2016, Cincinnati: a 7-year old boy was accidentally shot to death.
August 28, 2016, Dayton: A 7-year-old boy was shot in the leg after he and his friends found a gun inside a shed. Oct. 23, 2016, Columbus: A 10-year-old boy was accidentally shot when he and his friends found a gun.
Between Jan. 1, 2014, and June 30, 2016, there were 74 accidental shootings in Ohio involving children; 19 children died. Nationwide during this period, over 320 minors age 17 and under and more than 30 adults were killed in accidental shootings involving minors. Nearly 700 children and adults were injured, and nearly 90 3-year-olds were either killed or injured. These numbers come from an analysis by the Associated Press and USA Today of data collected by Gun Violence Archive, a nonpartisan research group.
What’s the answer? A combination of education and safe storage.
Children need to be taught that guns are items to be avoided when adults are not around. We teach kids to look both ways before crossing the street, not to stick their fingers into electrical outlets, etc. Gun safety should be part of that discussion.
But education isn’t enough because kids are curious, and guns are a source of great curiosity, a point illustrated by an experiment ABC News conducted in January 2014 at a preschool and child care center (with parental consent) in St. Petersburg, Fla. (http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/hidden-camera-experiment-children-drawn-guns-found- classroom-22258370 )
Youngsters, whose parents own guns, were shown the NRA’s Eddie Eagle video and instructed by a police officer what to do if they found a gun. The message was reinforced by a teacher. A few days later, the officer hid an unloaded gun in the classroom. Eddie Eagle is an animated figure who teaches kids, when they find a gun, to “Stop! Don’t Touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.”
What did the kids do when they found the gun? They recited the “don’t touch” mantra but proceeded to touch the gun. Two boys looked straight down the barrel—and then called for an adult.
Surprising? It shouldn’t be. Guns are too much of a temptation. Plus, parents aren’t good at hiding things, and kids are stronger than we think. Nationwide Children’s Hospital tells us that, notwithstanding what parents may think, eight of 10 first graders know where their parents store their guns, and a three-year-old can pull the trigger on most American guns.
According to ABC News, there is a gun in one out of every three homes. So, even if you’re a parent who vigilantly safeguards his firearms, your child can still be at risk when visiting a friend.
What to do? For these reasons, education has to be supplemented with safe storage. At a minimum, lock your guns and keep them out of reach of kids. Understand how tempting it is for kids to play with guns. Advocate for safe storage of firearms combined with education to protect children.
In Ohio, we are beginning to take steps toward safer gun storage and education for families. The Kiwanis Club of Columbus, Ohio, recently donated $10,000 to the Ohio AAP for the purchase of gun boxes. When pediatricians talk with parents about protecting their children from the lethal hazards that exist in every house—cleaning chemicals, electrical outlets, etc.—parents will be asked if they have a means to safely store their guns. A gun box will be given to those parents who do not.
I’ve examined one of those gun boxes. It’s locked by a key and takes almost no time to unlock. I suppose some will say that even the second or two it takes to unlock a gun box is too much time when your life is at stake. Maybe. But if a bad guy has that big of a drop on you, that second or two probably won’t mean much of a difference anyway.
Any parent who has lost a child to an accidental shooting would likely give up that second or two to have his child back.
This pilot program is supported by the Buckeye Firearms Association, Black Wing Shooting Center, and injury prevention advocates from around the state. We are bringing together all sides of the issue to find common-sense solutions for what we all agree on–kids should be safe around guns.
The support of the Kiwanis Club of Columbus to make this program happen is a reminder of what can be achieved when the community becomes involved in keeping kids healthy. There is great evidence that a partnership between the AAP and Kiwanis can save thousands of children’s lives. In the 1950s, these two groups led the effort to spread the polio vaccine, eradicating the disease in the USA by 1980.
I hope the partnership with the Ohio AAP and Kiwanis Club of Columbus is the beginning of another historical movement to save children’s lives.