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Go Ask Mom

Gun safety event focuses on protecting kids, offers free gunlocks

Posted June 26, 2014

Handgun generic, revolver generic, gun control

The next time your child heads over to a friend's house, a Durham County gun safety group wants you to ask these questions: Are there guns in the house? If so, are they stored properly?

It's a tough topic to broach for a lot of people out there, but it's one, said Joanie Ross, a public health education specialist in Durham County, that could save lives.

“It is extremely important to ask friends, neighbors and relatives, or wherever your children may play or visit, if there are guns nearby,” Ross said. “If the answer is yes, find out how the guns are stored. If the guns are not stored properly, the location is a dangerous place for your child to play. Guns should be unloaded with the gun locked up and the ammunition stored separately. Asking one simple question could save your child’s life.”

Ross is part of Durham County's gun safety team, which is coordinated by staff at the Durham County Department of Public Health. The group, which includes gun owners, community representatives, law enforcement officers, medical professionals and church representatives, has given away more than 10,000 gunlocks since 1999 and has worked to reduce the number of gun injuries. 

Spurred by the accidental shooting death of a nine-year-old Durham boy by his brother in April and others around the region and country, the group will hold an event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday, at the Durham County Human Services Building, 414 E. Main St., Durham. Free gunlocks will be available, along with information about gun safety and protecting children from injury. They'll also be giving away 175 snow cones from Pelican's.

According to the North Carolina Violent Death Reporting System, 13 people died in 2011 where the shooter unintentionally pulled the trigger, seven of those 13 occurred while the victim was playing with a gun, according to a news release. Others happened when the shooter thought the gun was unloaded, the gun was mistaken for a toy, and while a gun was being cleaned. That year, 12 percent of violent deaths in children were from unintentional firearm incidents.

Ross points to another Durham case a couple of years ago when a four-year-old boy seriously injured himself after finding a loaded gun on top of the refrigerator at his home. His father was later arrested for violating a state law on the storage of firearms to protect minors.

"We have talked to kids of all ages and they know where the firearms are and they also know that parents think they don't know," Ross said. "They know exactly where they are. They know if it's in the closet, they know if it's under the bed, they know wherever."

The gun safety team reminds gun owners that the safest way to keep a gun is locked up in a safe with the ammunition locked up separately, Ross said. If there is no safe, gun owners can use a gunlock and should still store the ammunition locked away elsewhere.

"Hide the keys," Ross said. "Put them somewhere where a child cannot find them." 

But Ross said everybody, not just gun owners, need to be talking about gun safety, proper gun storage and keeping our children safe. She understands that some parents might be reluctant to start the conversation about guns in the homes of their children's friends. But, she said, those questions are important to ask. 

"You can ask about firearms as you ask about are they going to be swimming, making sure they fasten their seatbelts, maybe the child is allergic to something. but the most important thing you can talk about is a firearm because that is something that can take a life or injure a child for life," she said. " ... We say, 'share this with a friend.' We want it to be a comfortable dialogue between parents and have it be a natural thing to ask."

After all, if we all asked the question, it wouldn't be so tricky to ask.

"The more we talk about it, the easier it's going to be to talk about it," she said.

Parents also should talk to their kids about what to do if they see a gun. Ross said parents should advise their kids to stop, don't touch, run away and find an adult if they see a firearm.

"If someone ever told them that they had a firearm in their book sack at school, go tell your teacher or your principal even if you don't know for sure. If they find one under a bush, get away. At a friend's house and [the friend] want to look at one, get away," she said.

"It's really up to the parents to keep these firearms out of the child's arms totally," she said.

This isn't a law enforcement issue. It's a public health issue. 

"With our teamwork and our whole motivation, it's not political, it's all about children's safety," she said. "That makes it a lot easier for us to get out into the community. It's a person's right to own a gun. It's nothing for us to judge. We just want our children to be safe and I think that's something that no one would argue with it."

"I think people are just tired of it and taking a stand on it," she added. "It's just so preventable."

For more information, go to North Carolinians Against Gun Violence's website and the ASK (Asking Saves Kids) campaign website

For more information about the Durham County gun safety team, the ASK event on Monday, or how to obtain free gun safety locks, contact Ross at 919-560-7765 or e-mail jross@dconc.gov.

27 Comments

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  • Jennifer Apple Jul 1, 2014
    user avatar

    I also want to know if they have any valuable jewelry, electronics, gold and/or silver. That way the criminals of the community won't have to waste their time searching through homes with nothing decently small, portable, and worth stealing.

  • Bubba Jim Jun 30, 2014
    user avatar

    Sorry "willcarry1" don't believe a word of that story. If it is true then I agree with 68_dodge_polara that you are massively irresponsible.

  • 68_dodge_polara Jun 30, 2014

    View quoted thread


    That was lack of personal responsibility of you and your co-worker not the "pro-gun crowd". In fact it's the pro-gun crowd that would have provided plenty of instruction and if sought through the NRA it is usually even free.

  • willcarry1 Jun 28, 2014

    I took a co-worker to a local shooting range to try out his new Glock 17 handgun. The only problem was, he did not know how to load he magazine, he did not know how to rack the slide, nor did he know anything at all about gun safety. He was able to purchase this weapon legally.
    You cannot get a hunting license in North Carolina until you take a Hunter's Safety Course You can't get a driver's license until you take a test. Ye this guy was able to arm himself legally with ZERO knowledge on how to own and operate a firearm.
    The anti-gun people don't promote gun safety because they reuse to admit that a firearm can be owned safely. The pro-gun crowd won't make safety training mandatory because its "agin their rats!".
    So we have accidents ever week where someone gets hurt or killed because of negligence that could have been corrected by training.

  • saturn5 Jun 27, 2014

    We're teaching kids that guns are dangerous and only for adults. That makes them interesting. Kids are curious. Educate them if you really want to protect them.

  • glarg Jun 27, 2014

    Really they ought to be advocating a mandatory basic safety training course, like Eddie Eagle.

    Nonsense like "run away" just reenforces the glamor of guns. Its the same logic as drug- its so dangerous you cant possibly handle it. To which the kid, or one of the friends says "oh yeah"?

  • Bill of Rights Jun 27, 2014

    I sure wouldn't mind adding this Colt revolver to my collection.

    Gun locks are a pretty passive approach to gun safety; a good start, perhaps, but no substitute for real knowledge. I'd far rather see this group partner with Eddie Eagle (or something similar) and offer real firearms training to the community.

  • Huey Jun 27, 2014

    I don't see this a having much effect. I have a sword hanging on our bedroom wall and an eight year old went in one day while visiting with her parents and cut her finger with it to see if it was real. She had no fear of it at all. Kids today are so amazed with firearms cause they see them on tv, video games, and the movies. When they find one they pick it up and PLAY with it. All tests done by psychologist prove this.

  • saturn5 Jun 27, 2014

    We used to encourage civilian marksmanship training. High Schools had rifle teams. Where we used to endorse knowledge and skill, today we teach fear and ignorance. That isn't progress.

  • 68_dodge_polara Jun 27, 2014

    View quoted thread


    Also it takes the mystery out of it which is why some kids want to play with them.

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