Kids’ access to firearms is a key factor in gun violence
Multiple times each year, America is left reeling after a school shooting. Last month, a 26-year-old gunman killed nine people at Umpqua Community College before turning the gun on himself. A year ago, 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg brought a .40-caliber Beretta pistol to Marysville-Pilchuck High School and used it to kill four classmates and himself. His father, Raymond Lee Fryberg Jr., was recently found guilty of six counts of unlawful possession of a firearm — one of which was the pistol his son used in the deadly shooting.
Although school shootings are what make national news, suicide is the most common way children are killed by guns. According to the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, firearms caused 18 percent of all deaths among 15-to-24-year-olds in 2013. Seventy-seven percent were suicides, 18 percent were homicides and 5 percent were accidental.
Among children, 66 percent of firearms incidents in K-12 schools are due to a child’s access to a family member’s firearm that is not locked up, according to WAGR.
Easy accessibility to firearms clearly is an important factor in many of the murders, suicides and accidental gun deaths.
“The bottom line is that keeping accessibility of guns away from youths is the number one thing we need to do to curb gun violence among young children and teenagers,” says Renée Hopkins, WAGR’s executive director. She emphasizes that firearms need to be locked up and secured at all times.
Hopkins also advises that parents have frank gun-safety conversations with their children beginning at an early age. “Instill in them that if they ever see a firearm, they must immediately walk away, find an adult and tell them about the situation,” she says.
Parents who aren’t gun owners also bear responsibility. Hopkins recommends that when your child goes to play at a new friend’s house, ask the parents if they have firearms. If the answer is yes, ask further questions to make sure the guns are secured and inaccessible.
Local leaders are taking some steps to try to reduce gun deaths. Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess recently proposed a bill that adds sales tax to all gun and ammunition purchases made in the city. The tax dollars will go towards prevention programs and research partnerships to curb gun violence.