From Where I Stand: We must all do more to stop gun violence
It’s been yet another summer of harrowing headlines about gun violence in the U.S. From high-profile mass shootings to the steady drumbeat of daily gunfire, the epidemic of gun violence feels overwhelming and out of control.
Like so many of you, we fear for the safety of our children. After all, gun violence — including suicide, accidental shootings and homicides — overtook car accidents in 2020 to become the No. 1 cause of death for U.S. children and adolescents. The May massacre in Uvalde, Texas, was yet another grim reminder that our children’s safety isn’t even a given at school.
But that doesn’t mean that we are hopeless. When the grief and fear feel all-consuming, we find hope in the fact that gun violence is preventable, and that there are evidence-based measures we can all take to try to stop it.
We represent Tired Parents, a group of parents along the Route 1 Corridor that has been working since 2017 on gun violence prevention in our community, specifically as it relates to children. Chief among our objectives is to popularize the evidence-based Asking Saves Kids (ASK) Campaign, which encourages parents and caregivers to ask if there are firearms — and if so, if they are securely stored — in the homes where their children play.
Across the country, an estimated 4.6 million children live in a home where at least one gun is kept loaded and unlocked. Research shows that keeping guns locked and unloaded and storing ammunition separately from its gun substantially reduces the risk of “family fire” — or a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun found in the home. Our goal is to make the question “Is there a gun in your house?” as natural and commonplace as conversations about pets or allergies.
And asking about unsecured firearms isn’t just for parents of young kids; teens who take babysitting jobs, young adults moving in with roommates and adults making living arrangements for aging parents can all benefit from having these conversations.
We’ve held community conversations on why and how to ask about guns in homes, circulated tip sheets in English and Spanish on how to ask throughout the community, and included this critical information in messages on social media and through our newsletter. And we’ll continue to share this information with Hyattsville families wherever and however we can.
Now, as we prepare to head back to school, Tired Parents is calling on Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) to continue to actively promote gun violence prevention in the school and home settings.
Data show that 76% of school shootings are facilitated by kids accessing guns at home. And we know Black and Latinx children and teens are disproportionately impacted by gun violence, including school shootings. With that in mind, in May and June, we successfully lobbied PGCPS to send a message to all parents and caregivers in the school system encouraging them to have conversations about guns and gun safety with every adult who supervises their kids. And we provided a letter about the ASK Campaign that PGCPS circulated to the county network of PTA leadership.
We are now requesting that PGCPS 1) share information with all parents and caregivers about the responsibilities of safe gun storage and the importance of asking about unsecured firearms in homes and 2) require parents to sign a letter at the start of each academic year acknowledging they have received the information. This is already being done in school districts such as the Los Angeles Unified School District. We also request that the county school system send a reminder about safe gun storage before school breaks.
We also encourage child care providers and community groups to talk about guns in homes with their families and are happy to provide materials to facilitate these conversations.
We recognize that directly addressing these issues may be awkward at first, and some may ask if this is within the mandate of our education system. Sadly, the epidemic of gun violence requires an all-hands-on-deck approach, and our schools are no exception.
If you’d like to learn more about Tired Parents or get involved, please follow us on Instagram @tired.parents and/or sign up for our newsletter at bit.ly/3Pisrqt. We wish everyone a wonderful — and safe — 2022-23 school year.
By Julia Crooks, Tracy O’Heir, Debbie Van Camp, Lauren Vulanovic, Sarah Weber and Jessica Weiss, for Tired Parents
The views expressed in this column belong to its authors. The Hyattsville Life & Times reserves the right to edit “From Where I Stand” submissions for brevity and clarity.