Parenting Win of the Week: Let's Talk About Gun Safety
It's a hard conversation to have, but an oh-so-necessary one.
As I work my way through my feelings about what happened on the 4th of July, (not to mention Uvalde, Parkland, Sandy Hook, the list goes on…) one of the things I have been exploring is how to make real change.
Now, this is not an issue with a single solution, as we all know. There are many factors at play and many facets of this problem. So, I turned to a group that deals with these issues day in and day out, Moms Demand Action. Moms Demand Action is a grassroots network that is part of Everytown for Gun Safety. If you are looking to help change policy, this group is a fantastic organization to be a part of. We chatted and they introduced me to another fantastic Everytown-based program called Be SMART.
This program, one I wasn’t aware of, brings gun safety back to the basics. Their mission is to educate about safe and secure gun storage and encourage everyone, even those who don’t own guns, to make sure we are spreading this message to keep our children safe. I think that is something we can all agree upon on a very basic level, no matter which side of politics we support.
As many mass shootings as there are, there is also a large amount of unintentional shootings (136 so far in 2022) and suicide by firearms (sadly this number rose substantially in 2020). And according to research from Everytown on keeping our kids safe in schools, in incidents of gun violence on school grounds, up to 80 percent of shooters under the age of 18 obtained their guns from their own home, a relative's home, or from friends.
Yes, listing all of this out seems like too much to bear. With so many issues at hand, where do we start?
My first step was speaking with Dr. Johanna Thomas, Ph.D., a Moms Demand Action volunteer, college professor, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Arkansas. She has been speaking to parents and schools about gun safety. She shared a wealth of information and made me realize that taking a step isn’t as daunting as it feels (and it’s important).
This interview is edited for length and clarity.
What is the safest way to store a gun?
Secure firearm storage is unloaded, locked up with ammunition stored separately. It’s important to note that many people also store firearms in their car, and the glove box is NOT a secure way to do so. There are car safes that you can bolt into the floor. (Note: Many guns are stolen out of cars.)
This fact sheet goes into more detail.
Let’s talk about that awkward conversation, approaching another parent about their storage of guns — how does one even go about that conversation?
I remember the first time I asked and was nervous about asking. I asked the mom do you have guns in your home. She said I have one in the car — I was not prepared for that. The gun was under the front seat and not safely stored and clearly I wasn’t going to let my daughter in a car with an unsecured firearm. That’s when I really took the time to teach myself about what secure storage meant.
Now, I don’t even wait for someone to ask me. I send a text message that says we have four dogs that are kid-friendly, we have a swimming pool and we always supervise full time. Our medications are locked up, our liquor cabinet is locked and we have two firearms that are locked, unloaded with ammunition stored separately. I now just include gun safety in how we approach safety as a family.
Some are taken aback, but the conversation has to start with us. Just putting that information out there as part of safety.
What I have found is that gun owners who store their weapons safely are very quick to share with you how they are stored to keep kids safe.
Does this conversation come naturally to everyone like it does to you?
Even in Arkansas, where gun ownership is very high, this conversation over the past five years has become more and more common. I think more people are becoming aware of the ramifications of unsecured firearms. We just had a tragedy in our state last week and so, I do think, yes, this is one conversation at a time. But I do think when you open yourself up like that, other people will too.
We as parents want to do everything to protect our kids and it is our responsibility to have that conversation, but what if they still end up in a situation where they are in a house where a gun may not be secure at that moment. How do we prepare our kids?
I teach my kids that if they ever see a firearm, that they go and find an adult immediately because we know that training children on firearms does not work. They will play with a gun just because many of them are too young to understand the ramifications of it. So, I tell my kids that if they believe a gun is real or not (because many of the toy guns look too realistic) to immediately find an adult and let them decide if it’s real or fake.
I think the main take-home message is every parent wants their kids to be safe. This is a safety conversation. It has nothing to do with politics and nothing to do with the Second Amendment. I think most adults will agree that their number one priority should be keeping kids safe. We are all looking for the best way to do that and a good start is really starting to have some of those one-on-one conversations.
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