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 first step in the Be SMART program is “S” Secure your guns in homes and vehicles. 13 million households with children contain at least one gun. And the majority of children in gun-owning households know where the gun is stored. A gun should always be stored securely, which means it is inaccessible to kids. Remember, “hiding” a gun is not securing a gun.
Contrary to popular belief, locking up guns does not prevent owners from readily accessing their guns. There is a common myth that storage devices negate the self-defense purpose of owning a gun by putting time-consuming barriers between the gun owner and their means of defense. The reality is that there are many affordable options such as biometric lockboxes, trigger locks, or gun safes for secure gun storage that provide owners with access to guns in a matter of seconds while still preventing access by children and people at increased risk of harming themselves or others.
While school shootings and mass shootings typically make national headlines, almost all child unintentional shooting deaths occur in the home. And the Secret Service found that three-quarters of school shooters acquired their firearm from the home of a parent or close relative.
Additionally, unsecured guns may increase the likelihood of crime and violence through an increased risk of gun theft. At least two guns are stolen every 15 minutes in the US. It’s important to remember to lock up any guns in vehicles too — more than half of stolen guns are taken from vehicles. There are car gun lock boxes available for purchase at most retail and sporting goods stores.
Locking up guns will help to reduce the risk of firearm suicide, unintentional firearm injury and also help to prevent firearm theft. 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 email@example.com 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.