By Karen Stokes
White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention and U.S. Department of Education announced a new resource that schools can use to communicate with parents and families about the importance of safe and secure firearm storage.
The Education Department is sending a letter to school principals across the country to highlight the importance of safe gun storage and to encourage school officials to relay the significance of the issue to families. The department is also putting out a communication template school leaders can use when talking with parents about firearm storage.
To highlight these new actions, First Lady Jill Biden, White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention Director, Stefanie Feldman and U.S. Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona will join a town hall with school principals at the White House. The town hall will elevate the importance of safe firearms storage and emphasize the role that principals and education leaders can play in helping prevent gun violence.
“I know that there are some parents who wake up every day, drop their kids off for school. And while they’re watching their kids walk through that door, there’s just a little part of them that worries about gun violence during the school day,” Feldman told reporters.
Gun violence is the leading cause of death of children in America. Approximately 4.6 million children live in homes with unsecured firearms. Studies show that safe storage can dramatically reduce children’s risk of self-inflicted harm and unintentional shootings.
Unsecured guns are also closely associated with school shootings, youth suicide, unintentional shootings, and theft of firearms.
- 76 percent of school shootings are committed with guns from the home. The Department of Homeland Security’s National Threat Assessment Center reviewed targeted school violence over the past 40 years and found that three-quarters of school shooters acquired their firearm from the home of a parent or close relative.
- 80 percent of firearm suicides by children involved a gun belonging to a family member. The firearm suicide rate among children and teens has increased by 66 percent over the past decade.
- 76 percent of unintentional shootings of children were committed with unsecured guns from the home, most often stored in nightstands or other sleeping areas. From 2003 to 2021, 1,262 children (0-17 years) were killed by fatal unintentional firearm injury, with approximately half caused by another person.
- Over 1 million stolen firearms. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) reported that from 2017 to 2021, local law enforcement reported 770,642 private theft incidents involving 1,026,538 firearms. A rising trend has been firearms stolen from unattended motor vehicles.
In December, Vice President Harris, the Office of Gun Violence Prevention and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs convened 100 state legislators to announce the Biden-Harris Administration’s Safer States Initiative to reduce gun violence and save lives.
While safe gun storage is an important factor in curtailing death and injuries among children, the Biden-Harris Administration, through the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and other grant programs, has also provided unprecedented funding to establish safe, healthy, and supportive learning opportunities and environments; to increase access to school-based mental health services; and to strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-need communities. These investments help advance the President’s Mental Health Strategy, which directly implements his Unity Agenda for the nation by helping to tackle the mental health crisis, according to White House.