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Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens in Missouri. Every year in the United States, 350 children aged 17 and under gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. Nearly 700 more die by suicide with a gun each year. We have the power to prevent tragedies like these from happening, using the Be SMART program to help parents and adults prevent child gun deaths and injuries.

The second step in the Be SMART program is “M” Model Responsible Behavior. Every law-abiding adult has the right to decide whether or not to have a gun in the home. But, you can’t rely on curious kids not to find a gun.

Kids know where their parents store their guns, and more than one-third reported handling their parents’ guns, many doing so without the knowledge of their parents—Nearly a quarter of parents did not know that their children had handled the gun in their house.[1]

It is always an adult’s responsibility to prevent unauthorized access to guns, not a curious child’s responsibility to avoid guns. Talk to your kids about gun safety, but remember that’s a precaution, not a guarantee. One study found that young children who go through a week-long gun safety training are just as likely as children with no training to approach or play with a handgun when they find one.

Modeling responsible behavior means that SMART adults make sure that kids don’t have the opportunity to access guns.

That said, you can’t control the environment that your child is in all the time, so you should teach them not to touch a gun if they come across one, real or pretend, and give them the tools to get out of a dangerous situation, and to alert an adult. As an adult, it’s your responsibility to do everything you can to prevent them from getting in a dangerous situation.

Click here for a handout on Talking to Your Children About Guns

Want to learn more? Diocesan volunteers are ready to give a 20 minute Be SMART presentation to your church, Adult Formation, Children’s Formation parents, or any other group. A communications toolkit is ready for your use, full of social media and bulletin graphics, articles for your newsletter, handouts, and directions for how to share the message of Be SMART with your congregation. Contact Tara Bennett at for more information, or visit the Peace & Justice Committee page on the Diocesan website.

If you want to be informed about urgent issues, calls to action, legislative alerts, and ongoing gun violence prevention work with The Diocese of West Missouri, please complete our form.

[1] Frances Baxley and Matthew Miller, “Parental Misperceptions About Children and Firearms,” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 160, no. 5 (2006): 542–47,

Tara Bennett is chair of the Peace and Justice Committee. A member of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, she is also an active volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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