Youth firearm deaths have been headlined with heartbreaking frequency in recent weeks. Last weekend Marysville-Pilchuck High School students marked the anniversary of the death of five classmates including the shooter, even as residents of Roseburg, Oregon, continued to grieve for the college students gunned down by a shooter who then took his own life. Events like these are tragic reminders to embrace practical solutions to the gun violence that rightly has been called “ the primary public-health crisis facing our youths today.”
The public health quote comes from Cindy Gazecki, a senior vice president of Seattle Children’s and the bereaved relative of Gia Soriano, who died at Marysville-Pilchuck. Since then, Gazecki reports in her Seattle Times guest opinion column, 35 other Washington children under the age of 18 have died as a result of a firearm. She calls on the community to join “in advocating for and practicing safe gun storage as just one of the tangible ways that we can protect our kids from these tragedies.”
Here are some of her supporting facts:
• Keeping firearms locked and unloaded, with ammunition locked separately, can greatly reduce the risk of injuries and deaths involving children and teens
• One in six homes has guns stored loaded and unlocked. Children live in 35 percent of those homes.
• More than 60 percent of firearms used in school-associated homicides or suicides in the U.S. came from the perpetrator’s home or from a friend or relative, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
• The risk of a youth suicide in King County is nine times higher in homes where firearms are kept unlocked, compared to homes where firearms are kept locked.
Seattle Children’s and its community partners are making it easy for gun-owners to do the right thing by holding safe-gun-storage events across Washington state. There have been five events so far, giving away more than 1,700 lockboxes and/or trigger locks and providing education about safe gun storage. One more event is planned for this fall: from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 14 at Big 5 Sporting Goods in Kirkland.
“It’s our belief that people want to do the right thing; they want to keep our kids safe. We just need to give them the tools and education to do it,” Gazecki says. I could not agree more. I applaud Children’s and every gun owner who lines up to receive these lifesaving tools and information.
– By Sue Lockett John