Occasionally a killer hides in plain sight. Almost uniquely American, this killer has gone many years killing many thousands, predominantly children. Meanwhile the blame, like the solution, has remained unfocused and dispersed, masquerading under vacuous terms that do not bravely serve to fight this national epidemic.
This ends today. Every day in America, 8 children are killed or injured, 8 families forever changed, by an unintentional firing of a grievously misused gun. As I’m writing this piece I just learned of a three-year-old boy hospitalized in Kansas after an unintentional shooting. Who shot him? His twin brother.
It is time to better address and work to end this plague, one that we are now calling: “Family Fire.” Like the terms “Secondhand Smoke” and “Designated Driver” which better identified the foe and applied focus to saving countless lives, our call to action to end Family Fire must do the same.
Unlike the microscopic root causes of many killer plagues, the conditions for Family Fire are macro and, quite literally, in plain sight - lack of awareness of how broad the problem is, and how very easy it would be to fix. The result? 4.6 million children today live in homes with loaded and unlocked guns.
The solution is right before us. It lies in safely securely guns and ammunition separately and ensuring that self-defense guns don’t become self-destructive of the very people they are frequently desired to protect.
Many claim the gun violence prevention (GVP) community takes issue with gun ownership or possession. This is a myth propagated by the gun lobby. Speaking for the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence, I can assure you that is not the case. Many of our leaders, staff, members and supporters are responsible gun owners - the operative word being responsible. We side with safe gun best practices because we know it saves lives.
On 8/8/18, we launched our End Family Fire campaign to recognize the 8 kids a day that are shot by unsecured guns and pledge to educate all Americans on the risks and responsibilities of gun ownership. As we all know, and indeed was possibly the case in the Kansas shooting, curious toddlers can slip away and get into trouble in a split second.
Over the next year you’ll see public service announcements creating awareness of the Family Fire epidemic and how you can side with safety and better protect your family and community. We hope that these inspire not only safe storage in your home, but also spark conversations regarding gun safety as a critical priority. As any parent of a young child can testify, telling your child NOT to do something makes it all the more enticing. And while you might store your firearm safely, you never know in which household or at what play date your child might encounter an unlocked and loaded weapon. The worst part of my job is attempting to console a parent who has lost a child due to Family Fire. That is a pain and torment, which no human being should ever experience, and none of us who own guns need to experience. And, almost every story shared contains the phrases “If only” or “I wish I had.”
Family Fire. We’ve named the epidemic, now let’s all do what we can to end it, and work together to truly keep our families safe.