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Opposing Sides of Gun Debate Join Forces for First Time Urging Adults to Use Common Sense to Protect Kids

Television’s Former Mrs. Walton Announces
National Public Education Campaign

Washington, D.C., October 6, 1999 — An unlikely team of citizens and celebrities gathered today in Washington to urge gun owners and non-owners alike to take simple, precautionary measures to save children’s lives. For the first time, opposing sides of an increasingly contentious gun debate have joined forces, putting bitter differences aside, to work together to protect America's children from gun deaths and injuries.

The new group — Common Sense About Kids and Guns — is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about ways to reduce gun deaths and injuries to our nation’s children and teenagers. Common Sense has garnered support for its mission and message from a diverse and unprecedented coalition including: gun manufacturers, child safety and child welfare advocates, pediatricians, crime prevention advocates and the nation’s mayors.

Their message is clear: adults and especially parents must take personal responsibility to prevent young people from having unsupervised access to guns. Centers for Disease Control mortality figures show that an average of 5 children were killed every day in gun-related accidents and suicides committed with a firearm between 1990-1997. Simultaneously disturbing and hopeful is that often these tragedies are — or were — preventable.

"We hope to make unloading, locking and storing guns properly as automatic as buckling a safety belt," said Victoria Reggie Kennedy, co-founder and President of Common Sense and wife of Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). "Our children depend on us to protect them. And while violence among young people is a complex issue, we can’t wait one more day to start doing what we can to keep our children safe."

The launch of Common Sense follows a heated and unresolved Congressional debate about gun control policy, which erupted after the tragic shootings of children in Los Angeles, California; Littleton, Colorado; and Jonesboro, Arkansas, among other places.

Unlike Congress, however, Common Sense will avoid legislative debates and put differences aside in order to come together for a national campaign to promote safety measures. Coalition members endorsing Common Sense currently include: the American Academy of Pediatrics, Child Welfare League of America, National Crime Prevention Council, National SAFE KIDS Campaign, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute, Inc., Stop Handgun Violence, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"It doesn’t matter what your political beliefs are when it comes to keeping kids safe from unsupervised access to guns," said James E. Chambers, Executive Director of the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute. "We all agree that we have a personal responsibility to protect our children. There are simple steps we can take that are just common sense.

Common Sense will educate the public about the dangers to children of unsupervised access to guns and provide the public with common sense safety steps. The group will also act as an information clearinghouse through its web site, and toll free number 877-955-KIDS. Common Sense will use tv and radio public service announcements and print advertising to spread its message recommending immediate, concrete steps parents and all adults can take to keep their kids safe. For example:

Parents Who Own A Gun:

  • Unload it and lock it up.
  • Lock and store ammunition separately.
  • Hide keys where children can't find them.

All Parents:

  • Ask if guns are safely stored at places your children visit or play.
  • Talk to your children about guns.
  • Teach young children not to touch guns, and to tell an adult if they find one.

According to a national survey conducted for Common Sense by Peter Hart Research Associates, more than 40% of all American households with children contain at least one firearm. Unfortunately, nearly one-third of gun owners admit to storing their weapons unlocked and loaded, and at least a quarter of these gun owners have children under 18 living at home. Millions of firearms can be easily accessed without adult supervision by curious, depressed or angry children and teenagers. Common Sense believes that adults will alter their storage behavior when they understand the risks unsupervised access to guns pose to their children.

"If our neighbor’s gun had been locked up, Brian would be alive today," said Ann Marie Crowell, whose young son’s tragic death at a neighbor’s house in a firearm accident is featured in Common Sense’s ad campaign. "I want to prevent other parents from going through the pain we’ve experienced. I say to all parents, please follow these common sense safety steps. The child you save may be your own."

"Look carefully at your child and think what could happen if he or she got a hold of your gun," said Michael Learned, gun safety advocate and former Mrs. Olivia Walton from the television show ‘The Waltons’. "Taking simple safety precautions is obviously worth the effort."

Common Sense about Kids and Guns was founded by three longtime gun violence prevention and children's advocates: attorney Victoria Reggie Kennedy; Boston businessman and Chairman of Massachusetts-based Stop Handgun Violence, John Rosenthal; and Washington, DC attorney and former US Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador David Birenbaum.

# # #

ATTENTION JOURNALISTS: For more information on Common Sense About Kids and Guns, or to arrange an interview with the coalition’s spokespeople, please contact Paul Marchione, (202) 546-0200, or via email.

Download Press Kit: (230KB)

See photos from the Press Conference launch.

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