The holidays are approaching, but gun violence never takes a holiday. Guns kill approximately 100 Americans and injure three times as many every day. Nationally and in Florida, 63% of gun deaths are from suicide, and 35% by homicide. (All data from everytownresearch.org.) Each death or injury creates ripples of long-term grief and trauma for families and friends.
While it’s our right as Americans to have firearms, those rights come with responsibilities. We can’t prevent every death or injury, but safe storage of firearms in all situations can make a difference.
First, safe firearm storage can prevent unintentional shootings. Curious kids and teens find and discharge guns about once daily in the U.S. Talking to kids about guns is a precaution, not a guarantee of safety. Keeping guns locked and unloaded, with ammunition stored separately, is an adult responsibility. We also need to ask about gun storage in homes our children visit. Even with responsible storage, children and teens find unsecured guns in other homes. Seventy-eight percent of school shooters under age 17 obtained their firearms from their own homes or a friend’s home. Safe storage, from barrel locks to biometric safes, still allows quick access when needed.
Understanding the role of guns in suicide also saves lives. While holidays can bring joy, they can also intensify feelings of sadness, loneliness and depression, sometimes leading to suicidal behaviors. For teens, the decision to commit suicide is often an impulsive one. Quick access to a loaded gun makes it easier for anyone to end their life. Suicide by gun is far more effective than other methods — with an 85% fatality rate. When a loved one is expressing suicidal thoughts, making firearms inaccessible can be the difference between life and death.
Finally, storing guns safely prevents crime. Gun thefts occur in staggering numbers — hundreds of thousands per year. The vast majority are taken from private owners, with about 25% from vehicles. Stolen guns frequently end up in underground markets, where criminals can easily obtain firearms without restriction. Stolen guns are often recovered at the scenes of homicides and other violent crimes. Keeping a loaded, unlocked gun under the car seat or in a glove box is risky and dangerous. Just as we lock up other valuables, guns should be locked and secured, wherever they are.
Simple behaviors could make the difference between life and death, wellness or injury, for our own loved ones or someone else’s. May your holidays be peaceful and safe.
Rosemary Nilles, of Inverness, is a local group co-leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense — Citrus.