When you have a law designed to keep children and family members alive through safe storage of firearms, what’s the best way to promote it?
Through the schools, of course.
So we’re proud of the San Diego Unified School District for passing a unanimous resolution at a recent meeting marking Gun Violence Prevention Week.
More important, the district’s board of education committed to sending an informational letter home to parents regarding San Diego’s Safe Storage for Firearms Ordinance, an ordinance initiated by the City Attorney’s Office under Mara Elliott.
The Safe Storage for Firearms Ordinance
Since September of 2019, anyone storing a gun in the home, garage or shed in San Diego must keep it secured when it’s out of their immediate control. “Secured” means stored in a locked container or disabled with a trigger lock. The goal is to prevent physical access by unauthorized users such as children, family members with dementia and people prohibited by law from possessing firearms.
Maybe you’re not worried about guns unsafely stored in your home. Maybe you’re convinced that you avoid the problem by hiding your firearm and ammunition. Or maybe you’re sure that you’ve trained your kids in the safe handling of guns.
But what about other people’s houses? What about all the kids your friends hang around with? Can you be sure about them?
Of course not.
Injury and death from firearms in the home are preventable. That’s why the ordinance is sensible, here in San Diego and in the growing number of California municipalities that are passing similar laws.
Plenty of ways children are affected
Kids playing with guns is just one aspect of this. In general, ensuring that firearms are safely stored can prevent family fire.
Think about domestic violence, which often involves an impulsive, spontaneous act. In 2017, over 17,000 domestic violence incidents were reported to law enforcement in San Diego County, up 4 percent from the prior year. And two out of three female victims of homicide in San Diego were killed by a family member or intimate partner. It’s bad enough when children witness other family members being abused by a spouse or domestic partner. Why traumatize them further by having a firearm unsafely stored in the household?
Then think about school shootings. Data shows that when the shooter was under 18, the firearm was obtained from the shooter’s home or from the home of a relative 74 percent of the time.
School shootings make the headlines because they’re inconceivably awful. But the reality is that most shootings of children under age 13 occur in the home. Firearms are the second-leading cause of death for American children and the leading cause of death for African-American children.
Sending the message home with the kids
So it’s a big deal to remind parents about the new gun safety law and spread the word to the thousands of families in the San Diego Unified School District. The combined resolve of the school board, Superintendent Cindy Marten and the City Attorney’s Office will help family members understand how they can help prevent gun deaths in our community. The message they’re sending home with the kids is that safe storage in San Diego is the law now, and that it can save lives.
It’s a big step on the path toward educating the public. And toward preventing what we can all see is preventable.
Lori Van Orden is an educator, co-chair of the SD4GVP Education Committee and co-lead for the Be SMART for Kids campaign in San Diego.