The guy with the guns is afraid?
National Rifle Association President James W. Porter II devotes a recent column in the NRA's flagship publication to calling out me and every supporter of the Brady Campaign for leading a national conversation on the extraordinary danger to children of unsafe access to guns in the home.
The NRA president falsely claims that Brady leaders and supporters "are flat-out saying that they want to take your guns and your neighbor's guns." And he hits the panic button over our focus on parents' responsibility to realize the real dangers of guns in the home and to take appropriate steps to keep our kids and families safe.
It is ironic that the guy with the guns is spreading fear over a conversation about child safety. But we won't be shouted down by the corporate gun lobby. We'll do whatever it takes to protect our kids.
Unsafe access to guns in the home is a leading cause of deaths among U.S. children and teens, according to The Truth About Kids & Guns: 2015, a new report from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The basis for this strong statement lies in statistics available to the public from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The most recent data, from 2013, shows that firearm-related injuries are the second most common cause of death for children and teens ages 1-19. Only motor vehicles were responsible for more deaths among this age group. In 2013, suicide by firearm increased among American adolescents for the third consecutive year. In 2013, suicide by firearm reached a 12-year peak, claiming 876 lives among adolescents ages 10 to 19 - the highest level since 2001.
Research shows that most of these youth suicides (82 percent) occur with a gun belonging to a family member, usually a parent. The same trend holds true with unintentional shootings and even school shootings. In most school shooting cases (67 percent), the gun comes from the home of the shooter or a friend or relative.
Every day, seven children and teens are killed by guns and another 44 are shot and survive. Our hearts break each time we learn of a new loss, such as:
- the 5-year old Missouri boy who found his grandfather's gun and unintentionally shot and killed his nine-month-old brother;
- the 2-year-old in Florida who found his father's gun, played with it, and shot himself fatally in the chest;
- the Washington State high school student who took a relative's gun and shot five friends, killing four and seriously injuring another before killing himself; and
- the 16-year old high school soccer player in Kansas who shot and killed herself at home.
These deaths are preventable. If school shootings, unintentional shootings and suicides are to be stopped, the effort begins at home. It starts with parents, who need to recognize the risks of guns in the home and make safer choices about gun access and storage. Millions of Americans bring a gun into the home in the false belief that it will make their families safer. But every day, as news reports and the latest data show, tragedies result. We can have an impact by educating parents about the real risks of having a gun in the home, which include homicide, suicide, and unintentional shootings.
The NRA wants to squelch the simple message of responsible parenting to protect our children. We'll do everything we can to keep our kids safe. We will be heard. Join our conversation. Talk to friends and family. Ask if there is a gun where your child visits or plays. Ask how it is stored. And if one of your loved ones is depressed and having suicidal thoughts, then remove items from your home - like guns or medication - that could be used in a suicide attempt. If you don't want to get rid of a gun to prevent a potential suicide, then consider storing it in a secure location off-site.
The Second Amendment lets Americans own guns. The First Amendment lets us talk about how dangerous they are. Don't let the NRA shout down the national conversation about the extraordinary danger to children and families of guns in the home.
Join us and improve the safety of America's children. You just might save a life.
This post originally appeared on Huffinton Post.