ASK Day encourages parents to ask questions about gun safety

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Easy access to guns in the home can lead to tragic consequences. That’s why doctors and child safety advocates want parents to speak up before sending their kids to someone else’s house.

Wednesday was ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Day at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR). The day is to encourage parents to ask the question: Is there an unlocked gun in your house?

It’s a collaboration between The American Academy of Pediatrics and The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

People from CHoR, VCU Police and Safe Kids Virginia answered questions about gun safety, handed out free gun locks and provided parents with conversation starters.

“I think people are so entrained in America with having a gun and their right to have it that that conversation often does not happen, so we’re trying to bring that to the forefront, said Dr. Jeff Haynes.

Haynes is Director of the Children’s Trauma Center. He said it’s not about whether owning a gun is right or wrong. It’s about making sure all weapons are secured around children.

“We have way too many episodes of children finding a gun that’s loaded, that’s unsecured, and their natural tendency is to play with it,” he said.

Haynes said in Richmond alone two children have died this year after finding an unsecured weapon in a home. Both were under the age of 10.

“And it’s only June,” he said.

There have been even more around the state.

Last month, a four-year-old died in Orange County after shooting himself at an in-home daycare. The homeowners were both charged.

Virginia is one of 21 states with a law that has to do with children and storing guns. The law here says you can’t recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured gun in a way that endangers the safety of a child under 14.

Corri Miller-Hobbs is Program Coordinator at Safe Kids Virginia. She spoke with several parents who stopped by the ASK Day booth.

“We’ve had many parents come through that actually frequently say, ‘I never really thought about it,'” she said.

Miller-Hobbs said parents are quick to think about pool safety and car seats — but not guns.

“It’s hard to watch families go through that when we know this can be prevented,” she said.

Miller-Hobbs said there are several ways to start a conversation. You can explain the safety procedures at your own home and then ask how the other family deals with it. You can say your pediatrician recently recommended all guns be secured because of an uptick in incidents involving children. She said you can also reference a recent story on the news.

Here are some additional ways to start the conversation according to CHoR:

  • “I hope you don’t mind me asking a few questions about the kids’ safety.”
  • “I want you to know I’ve spoken to my kids about not playing with guns but…”
  • “I’m not judging anything. I just want to be sure my child is safe…”
  • “I heard the most surprising fact from my child’s pediatrician…”
  • “We all know how curious kids can be…”
  • “Do you remember the tragic story about the kids who found a gun…”
  • “All of us in the PTA have committed to making sure our kids are safe…”
  • “Remember what we found in our houses when we were kids!”
  • “I just read this blog post from our doctor’s office…”

For more resources from CHoR, click here.