Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. As a parent, this tragic reality is unacceptable to me.
There are various contexts in which our kids are killed and injured by guns, but we know that 4.6 million children live in a household with at least one unsecured firearm, and nearly a quarter of all gun owners keep their firearms unlocked. This accounts for the nearly 350 children under 18 who unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else.
Unsecured firearms also contribute to the more than 700 children who die by firearm suicide every year. In fact, several studies have shown that the risk of suicide and unintentional shootings among youth increases in homes where guns are kept unsecured. Over three-quarters of school shooters obtain a gun from the home of a parent or relative.
Safety advocates, educators, and health professionals must continue to build awareness about the importance of secure firearm storage practices. But our village board can also help by amending the village code to require the secure storage of firearms in homes in Oak Park. Research suggests that child access protection laws effectively increase secure storage behavior, and that even modest increases in the number of U.S. households securely storing firearms could prevent almost a third of youth gun deaths.
Such an ordinance is on the agenda for the village board’s July 5 meeting. Support this common-sense policy by letting Village President Vicki Scaman and the trustees know that they should enact a local secure firearm storage ordinance.
If our local government can do anything to prevent even one death or injury by firearm, it is their responsibility to do so. And we can all use our voices to advocate in support of this secure storage ordinance.
Jenna Leving Jacobson