Wednesday was National ASK Day — part of a campaign urging parents to prevent tragedy by simply asking, “Is there an unlocked gun in your home?”
It may seem awkward at first, but advocates say asking about unlocked guns should become an ordinary question — considering that one in three homes with children has guns.
“Just like you would ask when your child is going over someone’s house if they have pets that your child may be allergic to — we want you to ask about guns,” said Denise Salerno, a professor of clinical pediatrics at Temple University.
“People have guns in their household thinking that they’re going to protect themselves,” she said.
But when people have guns for self-protection, she said, they may not lock them, thinking they might need to use the gun quickly one day for self-defense. And, most kids know where the guns are in their house.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, playing with a gun was the most common circumstance surrounding unintentional firearm deaths of children — accounting for 6 percent of them between 2012 and 2014.
If a parent has an unlocked gun, then the other parent has options, advised the ASK Campaign. Parents could ask to move the playdate to their house — or ask that the other parent lock and store the gun safely before their child comes over.
The campaign, which has traditionally focused on parents, is inviting pediatricians to talk with parents during an office visit.
Research shows that can be a good strategy, said Dr. Joel Fein of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. As an emergency doctor, Fein has treated kids who were victims of gunshots — including two small children last year.
“One of those children didn’t make it, and the other one did with severe injuries,” he said.
Seeing the impact of accidental gun death up close has motivated him to bring more awareness to families.
Shira Goodman is the executive director of CeaseFirePA. Her organization — one of hundreds partnering with the campaign — is working with the Philadelphia sheriff’s department and Temple to distribute gun locks.
“They’re given out in emergency rooms at Temple with no questions, no questions about is this a legal gun is this not a legal gun?” Goodman said.
Right now is a good time to get serious about this issue, she said; kids will have more unsupervised time at home during the summer.