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In the News

Group to promote gun safety for children
American News Service, 3/10/2000


WASHINGTON (ANS) -- Gun control advocates and weapons manufacturers have joined together in an effort to promote practical safety tips that can save children's lives.

Common Sense about Kids and Guns is readying a public education campaign that will use television, billboards and radio ads to push six safety tips that could make the difference between the life and death for a child, the group says. Founded in 1998 by Vicki Kennedy, an attorney and long-time gun control advocate who is married to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., the group is concentrating on pragmatic steps parents can take immediately, rather than waiting for congressional action on the problem, which has proved so divisive.

"Part of our mission is to not get involved in legislation, which is why we have been able to attract such a broad-based coalition," said Kennedy, who was moved to take action after the school shootings in Jonesboro, Ark., in 1998. "Our mission is solely to educate the public and to let them know there are common sense, practical things they can do."

Among the varied sponsors of the nonprofit organization are the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Safe Kids Campaign, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute.

All agree on the need for speedy intervention. A 1999 poll by Peter Hart Research Associates found that 40 percent of American households with children have guns and one-third of those do not keep the guns locked up.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, five children are killed every day in a gun-related accident or suicide. A study released by the Department of Justice in early March found that 38,000 juveniles were murdered with a gun between 1980 and 1997.

The campaign's list of tips is simple. First and foremost, parents who own a gun are encouraged to unload it and lock it up, to lock and store the ammunition separately, and to hide the keys in a place children can't find them.

"We can't penalize children with their lives for acting like children," Kennedy said. Young children, especially, are curious and prone to examine a gun no matter how adamant parents have been to stay clear. "We say you have to assume that a child will not follow your advice," she said.

All parents should ask the parents of their children's friends if guns are safely stored in their homes, the group says. While people may worry this will offend other parents, the safety of their child is worth the risk. Campaign members say one way to broach the subject is to say that a child is overly curious and that it is important to know if guns are stored safely.

Finally, Common Sense urges parents to talk to their children about guns, to encourage young children not to touch them and to tell an adult if they find one. Kennedy is the first to admit that a safety campaign is not the ultimate solution to the problem of gun violence among children. Alienation and violent images in the media must also be addressed, she said. But that will take years. In the meantime, there are things that parents can do today to save kids' lives, she said.

"We don't have generations of children we want to lose while we are solving those problems."


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