Children, Teens and Gun Violence

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This week marks the tragic first anniversary of the nine shootings at Emmanuel AME Church, and in December 2016 it will be four years since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children, ages six and seven, were killed.  As a parent and grandparent, I know we all want our kids to grow up healthy and happy, and provide them with a safe place in which to grow. I don’t own a gun and never had the desire to, but leaving politics aside, those who do own guns certainly bear a greater responsibility to the rest of us for keeping their weapons locked and out of reach.

“Be Smart” is an organization created by adults who want to reduce unintentional shootings that occur when guns are left within reach of kids  According  to private analysis by  American kids are 11 times more likely to die from gun violence than in other developed countries.

A Harvard study shows that 70% of children under age 10 know where their parents store their guns. Of these, 37% admit having handled the guns without their parents’ knowledge. Each year in the US, nearly 100 children under the age of 17 die from unintentional shootings, and more than 400 commit suicide with a gun.

The headlines can make us feel helpless but according to the BE SMART moms, the SMART framework can prevent child gun deaths and injuries.

Secure all guns in your home and vehicles;

Model responsible behavior around guns;

Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in their homes,

Recognize the risks of teen suicide

Tell our peers to be SMART.

When my children were little it would have never donned on me to ask another parent whether they owned a gun, much less whether they left it somewhere in their house, unattended, and within reach of my child.  That would be like asking them if they were negligent parents.  Not so, according to SMART moms. You can ease into that conversation just like you would ask whether they have a dog or cat, if your child had a fear of dogs or was allergic to cats.  You would ask if there was a pool, especially if your child couldn’t swim. Asking whether there’s a gun in the house should be part of this conversation, especially in those parts of the country where many people are hunters or gun owners.

Teens living in households with guns are 22% more likely to die of gun violence.  We know that adolescents are very impulsive, their brain is not yet fully developed. If they were bullied, or a girlfriend hurt them – they may feel dejected and the presence and availability of a gun in the house makes it too easy to end an unpleasant emotion. Fire arms are the most lethal method for suicide attempts, resulting in death 85% of the time.  According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,  those teens who attempt suicide do not attempt it again.


About the Author:

Claire Law
Claire is an IECA Professional Member and a Certified Educational Planner (AICEP) located in Charleston, South Carolina.