By McLean County Be SMART Team
Guns are a polarizing topic these days. Wait, before you stop reading, certainly we can all agree that children should not have unsupervised access to loaded firearms right? Simply put, that is the goal of the Be SMART program. In Illinois, that goal is actually the law. So far in 2021 (as of July 14, 2021) there were at least 174 unintentional shootings BY children resulting in 70 deaths and 113 injuries. Every year, hundreds of children in the United States gain access to firearms and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. This is not an accident. Research shows that 4.6 million American children live in homes with at least one gun that is loaded and unlocked.
Everytown, the nonpartisan organization that sponsors the Be SMART program, launched the Be SMART campaign to raise awareness that secure gun storage—storing guns locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition—can save children’s lives. This nonpartisan program respects the right of law-abiding adults to own firearms. It is designed to normalize conversations about gun safety and encourage adults to take responsible actions to prevent gun deaths and injuries to children.
Despite the risks to safety, the majority of gun owners do not secure their firearms responsibly. While millions of gun owners follow recommended storage practices, an estimated 54 percent do not lock all of their guns, let alone store them unloaded, locked, and separate from ammunition.
Contrary to popular belief, storage devices do not prevent owners from readily accessing their guns. There is a common myth that storage devices negate the self-defense purpose of owning a gun by putting time consuming barriers between the gun owner and their means of defense. The reality is that there are many affordable options for firearm storage that provide owners with access to guns in a matter of seconds while still preventing access by children and people at risk or harming themselves or others. Further, it is possible that unsecured guns may actually increase the likelihood of crime and violence through an increased risk of gun theft. Each year hundreds of thousands of guns are stolen, many from vehicles, and end up in the hands of those who cannot legally buy a firearm.
If you are a gun owner, secure your firearm responsibly (even if those grandkids aren’t in your home daily!). If you are not a gun owner, be sure to ask about firearm storage when your children visit others’ homes. Go to www.besmartforkids.org for more information or contact the McLean County Be SMART team for information. They offer free virtual or in-person Be SMART presentations. They can be reached via email at McMomsBeSMART@gmail.com.