Written by Tracy Nájera, Executive Director
April 4, 2018
Nationally in 2015, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 2,824 young people, babies and youth – from infants to age 19, lost their lives to gun violence and there were many more gun-related, serious non-fatal injuries in that year. Think about that for a moment – that’s seven children every day. According to Everytown for Gun Safety
, this year alone, there have been 56 accidental injuries or deaths of children by guns too easily accessible to them. The tragedy is that these deaths and injuries were, for the most part, avoidable. We are a nation with an appetite for guns, and when paired with laissez-faire attitudes towards responsible ownership the results can be and are tragic.To put a finer point on the prevalence of guns in our communities, Nationwide Children’s Hospital published the following facts
about gun ownership in the United States:
- More American homes have guns than dogs.
- 1 in 3 families with children have at least one gun in the house.
- Most of the victims of unintentional shootings are boys. They are usually shot by a friend or relative, especially a brother.
- Half of all unintentional shooting deaths among children occur at home, and almost half occur in the home of a friend or relative.
These facts are sobering. In the wake of recent school shootings and other tragedies, we continuously ask ourselves, “What can be done?” There’s quite a bit that can be done – from mental health support to common-sense gun control, and we’re seeing quite a bit of activity in statehouses across the country. Ohio is no different with several pieces of legislation recently introduced including a Child Access Prevention (CAP) bill.
What is CAP?
Child Access Prevention (CAP) requires all gun owners to store their firearms safely and securely in a place where children do not have access to them. This means they must be unloaded and locked with ammunition secured in a separate location. The research is clear – CAP laws work and prevent accidental and avoidable child deaths (including youth suicides and injuries) from firearms.
Where Does Ohio Stand?
Nearly half of states have a CAP law in place, and they are nothing short of requiring responsible gun ownership practices. In 2012, over six years ago, CDF-Ohio published an issue brief, Preventing Firearm Injuries and Fatalities among Ohio’s Youth
, where we cited the need for a CAP law in Ohio and provided a dashboard of states and their enactment of common sense firearm legislation. As of right now, Ohio has yet to count itself amongst the states that have passed a Child Access Prevention law.In the past month, legislators in the Ohio Senate introduced Senate Bill 279
, which requires gun owners to adhere to responsible practices and prevent minors from gaining access to firearms. These practices include requiring the use of a locking device for guns and requiring that gun owners be notified of their responsibilities for safe storage upon purchase of firearms. Bill 279 also mandates that criminal penalties be applied to gun owners who do not follow the law. CAP does not limit gun owner rights, however it does require responsible ownership practices that limit the accessibility of firearms to children.
What Can You Do?
We all play a role in keeping our children safe – parents, legislators, community leaders – and all must do our part, including:
- Support common sense gun laws that protect our children and keep our communities safe for them to live, learn and grow.
- Be an advocate for your children. The majority of accidental gun incidents (death and injury) occur at a friend’s or relative’s home, therefore it’s important to be aware of what children are exposed to when away from home:
- Parents can talk to the other adults who spend time with their children. Do those adults own guns and keep them in their home? Are those guns securely stowed away from reach of children?
- Parents and other adults can also talk to children about gun safety and set strict rules in the event children do come in contact with a gun.
It’s vital that all of us understand the responsibilities inherent in gun ownership. We can save thousands of lives and reduce unintended gun injuries by simply requiring responsible gun ownership. Now is to time to make a change. Our children’s lives are too precious for us to delay.