by Judi Wolf, Chair of the Play It Safe Campaign, NCJW Cleveland Section
Since last year’s horrific tragedies involving firearms, suggestions as to how to stop this problem have been coming forward in articles, editorials, and social media. So, too, have suggestions on where to put the blame: violence in movies, TV, and electronic games; the lack of sufficient mental health services; the proliferation of firearms with the ability for mass shooting; and the loose laws that easily allow for the purchase of illegal firearms.
Here in the NCJW Cleveland (OH) Section our advocacy committee works in coalitions, working together to ensure a safer environment by reducing illegal gun trafficking and ensuring the enforcement of laws concerning legal gun purchasing. We also spend a considerable amount of time advocating for sensible gun laws. These efforts, tied up with political wrangling, will take time to bear fruit.
There is something that can be done right now that may have more immediate results in saving lives. Cleveland Section has a program that can provide safer environments for the most vulnerable — the child who is in danger of confronting a loaded, unsecured gun.
The I Will Ask portion of the NCJW/Cleveland Play It Safe Campaign urges parents and caregivers to be aware that there may be a loaded, unsecured gun in the home where their child will visit. The I Will Ask presentation builds awareness of the possible danger in so many homes. After all, 33 percent of US households contain a gun, according to a Pew research study in 2009, and half of gun-owning households do not lock up their guns, including 40 percent of households with children under age 18.
- Studies have shown that most guns deaths that were self-inflicted or unintentional resulted from a firearm kept in the home of a friend or relative or that of the victim. (Grossman, Reay, and Baker 1999)
The I Will Ask program provides an emotional impact with multi-media presentations showing the impact of children finding loaded, unsecured guns and the accidental tragedies that result. Additional brochures, handouts, dialogue on ways to ask about guns and about sensible gun storage, distributing gun locks, and allowing for audience reactions not only builds awareness of the need to ask about guns where children visit, but also provides the strategies to help parents/caregivers become comfortable in asking.
It is heartbreaking to hear, way too often, a parent’s cry of “If only I would have known that there was an unsecured, loaded gun in that house, I would never have allowed my child to play there.”
I truly believe that these accidental gun deaths and injuries are preventable. NCJW/Cleveland believes that with every I Will Ask presentation that we do in the greater Cleveland community, we have started the conversation. We have parents and caregivers asking the important question “Is there a gun where my child is going to play?” and we feel that it is a first step in an overwhelmingly difficult dilemma of ending deaths due to guns in our country.