A Tool Kit for implementing a Family Safety Pledge in your community.
First, the "What".
What is the Locked Guns Save Kids Family Safety Pledge?
The Family Safety Pledge is a public health intervention, a pledge that schools distribute that parents and caregivers sign, to make sure fewer school kids have access to unlocked guns in their home and in the homes of friends and relatives.
What is the purpose of the Locked Guns Save Kids Family Safety Pledge?
Decrease guns brought to school by decreasing youth gun carrying, decrease gun suicides amongst school age children and their caregivers by increasing proper gun storage, decrease unintentional youth firearms injuries and deaths.
What data supports the Locked Guns Save Kids Family Safety Pledge?
The Secret Service and a Washington Post investigation have found that between 74-89% of guns brought to school by students come from their home or the home of a relative or close friend. In 2021 the gun used by a 14-year-old in Henrico, Virginia to shoot and kill another middle school student, Lucia Bremer, was an unlocked gun taken from the adult primary caregiver of the 14-year-old shooter.
In the United States, over 1,000 school aged children and teens die by firearm suicide per year (CDC, WISQARS). From a report by the Society for Research in Child Development: “For children and adolescents, the rates of death by suicide are over four times higher in households with firearms. In short, where there are more guns, there are more firearm suicides, but not more suicides from other methods.” Furthermore approximately 15 million U.S. children live in a home with at least one firearm that is unlocked and 6 million live in a home with at least one firearm that is both unlocked and loaded.
While the majority of the public intuitively understands the danger of providing school age children with access to loaded firearms, less than 10% of gun-owning adults with children are aware the presence of a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide. This lack of awareness is in great part due to a deadly gun industry perpetuated myth that kids have self-regulation to obey instructions from a cartoon eagle to not to touch readily accessible guns. In reality full frontal lobe development does not occur until 25 and even adults struggle with self-control and emotional regulation during times of stress. Gun industry Eddie Eagle, “do not touch” programs are killer pseudo-solutions, like when Big Tobacco put functionless filters on cigarettes. But the good news is that gun owners are open to education about the risks of unlocked and loaded firearms and have been shown to change storage behavior based on educational interventions.
Now the "How".
Step 1 - Educate
Explain to your superintendent, school board, school principal, PTA how improving gun storage will decrease incidents of gun carrying by youth and decrease all forms of gun violence among children in the community (gun suicides, homicides, and unintentional shootings). Cite specific incidents in your community that could have been averted with proper gun storage. Find the incidents by searching the Gun Violence Archive, keyword Google search, or contact Dr. Catherine Koebel at catherine.koebel@groceriesNOguns.org.
Step 2 - Ask
Send your school leaders the pledge and tell them about other districts implementing this approach. For instance, Roanoke City Public Schools (Roanoke, VA) are distributing the pledge yearly in English and Spanish and distributing gun locks. Ask your school and school district to provide gun locks through school front offices, via local police departments and local Level 1 Trauma Centers, who are required as part of their Level 1 designation to provide trauma educators that instruct the public on methods of reducing traumatic death and injury. Here are some examples of emails educating and asking, both received positive responses.
Step 3 - And Keep Asking
Expect that full implementation of the Pledge and gun locks may take 3-10 rounds of requests by a dedicated nucleus of parents. Relatively small groups (3-20), asking persistently for something imminently reasonable and do-able will work, eventually. Ask after every incident of high-profile school gun violence and after every local tragedy that could have been prevented with better gun storage, this is when school officials will be particularly pressed by general public sentiment to “do something” to improve school safety and the pledge and gun lock distribution through schools are actually an effective and low cost means of decreasing gun violence, a win-win. Ask at regular intervals, ask in public at school board meetings, just keep asking. If you get frustrated, have an event publicizing the pledge as a solution and use the media attention as leverage. While initial rejection is discouraging, please remember that anytime a new idea is introduced the initial answer is usually “no” or tepid/limited uptake, so don’t be discouraged. In implementing this program locally, we see those in power do not have infinite Nos in them, so just consider every, “No,” a steppingstone on your path to, “Yes.” Stay in touch! If you hit a bump, we probably experienced a similar bump in the road, so let us know how implementation is going, we will let you vent and brainstorm with you!