Mother’s Day is a time-honored tradition for many Americans: a day set aside just for mothers to be recognized and thanked for their unconditional love and support. But, this coming Mother’s Day, instead of being smothered with attention from their children, many American moms will instead be dealing with the death or injury of a child due to an unintentional shooting.
This may seem dramatic, but the reality is the problem of children finding unsecured guns is happening nationwide -- from toddlers in Texas to our most hallowed halls of power, as we saw recently when a child found a loaded gun in Speaker Boehner's office.
According to a newly launched index by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America called #NotAnAccident, as of May 4, there have been at least 80 unintentional shootings involving children, resulting in 57 injuries and 24 deaths since January 1, 2015. That’s an average of one unintentional child shooting in America every 36 hours. This is simply unacceptable. Even more tragic, most of these shootings are entirely preventable.
Let’s be clear: shootings by children are not inevitable or blameless accidents. When a child—or anyone else—dies or is injured because a gun is left unsecured by an adult, it’s a preventable tragedy due to adult negligence.
In fact, our #NotAnAccident index shows that nearly 65% of the unintended deaths we tracked took place in a home or vehicle that belonged to the victim’s family. Nineteen percent took place in the home of a relative or friend of the victim. And more than two-thirds of these tragedies could have been avoided if gun owners stored their guns responsibly.
That is why Moms Demand Action is launching Be SMART, a new public education campaign that asks gun owners and non-gun owners alike to come together to reduce the number of unintentional shootings, suicides, and homicides that occur when firearms are not stored responsibly and are accessible by children and teens.
Be SMART asks parents and caretakers to take these simple steps to help prevent shootings by children: secure all guns in your home and vehicles; model responsible behavior around guns; ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes; recognize the risks of teen suicide; tell your peers to be SMART.
Through Be SMART, moms are spreading the word about responsible gun storage, leading by example, asking others about guns and how they are stored in their homes, paying attention to the risk factors, and telling everyone we know about how to be SMART.
Why are we so focused on gun safety?
Because, in 1997, Missy Jenkins Smith was paralyzed in a school shooting when a 14-year-old found an unsecured gun in a garage at friend’s home, brought it to school and opened fire.
Because just a month ago, the 8-year-old son of Misty Uribe, a North Carolina mom of three, was at a friend’s house when one of his playmates was shot in the face while playing “cops and robbers” with an unsecured gun.
Because on March 1, 2015, Ashley Beal’s 4-year old son Codrick McCall Jr. died from an unintentional, self-inflicted gunshot wound after finding an unsecured gun at the home of a family friend.
As part of the 2015 Mother’s Day Week of Action, moms across the country will host nearly 150 house parties featuring a Be SMART presentation by Melissa Joan Hart – actor, director, and a mom of three who is helping spread the message of gun safety to communities across the country.
And for every supporter who completes our online quiz on BeSMARTforKids.org, Moms Demand Action will commits to providing a MasterLock 107DSTP gun lock to local chapters for gun safety awareness events in their local communities.
The week will close with our 3rd Annual Brooklyn Bridge March and Rally to End Gun Violence in New York City on Saturday, May 9 in New York City.
Be SMART and join us in a new national conversation about responsible gun storage, and give the gift of gun sense this Mothers’ Day to prevent injuries and save lives.
Shannon Watts is the mother of five children and the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety.
To learn more about responsible gun storage, check out our website BeSMARTForKids.org.