By Marian Wright Edelman
FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT EMERITA
Once again this week the breaking news showed the devastating scenes at a school shooting—this time at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California. In a nation with more guns than people, the pervasive fear of gun violence saturates our children’s lives. Why do we continue to allow guns to steal our children’s lives, dreams, futures and childhoods? America’s obsession with guns is fueled by myths and misconceptions—and this misinformation is no accident. For years the gun lobby has actively distorted and blocked the truth. It’s time to set the record straight.
The Children’s Defense Fund’s Protect Children Not Guns 2019 report shares essential facts about guns in America. The first five facts to know:
1. A gun in the home is more likely to endanger than protect loved ones. A gun in the home makes the likelihood of homicide three times higher, suicide three to five times higher, and accidental death four times higher. For every time a gun in the home injures or kills in self-defense there are 11 completed and attempted gun suicides, seven criminal assaults and homicides and four unintentional shooting deaths or injuries.
2. Many children live in homes with loaded, unlocked guns and know where they are. A third of households with children have a gun and nearly half of gun-owning households with children fail to store firearms safely. An estimated 4.6 million children live in homes with at least one unlocked and loaded gun and most know where they are kept. About 3 in 4 5-14-year-olds with gun owning parents know where they are stored and more than 1 in 5 have handled a gun in the home without parental knowledge. This has led to preventable accidents and suicides: more than half of youths who committed suicide with a gun found the gun at home.
3. Guns lethalize violence. Contrary to gun lobby propaganda, guns do kill people. Guns lethalize anger, hate, and violence. A gun in family or intimate assaults increases the risk of death 12 times. An estimated 41 percent of gun related homicides and 94 percent of gun related suicides would not occur without guns.
4. Armed school guards and teachers don’t make children safer and often increase risk in the classroom. A report from the Giffords Law Center found armed adults in schools frequently mishandled guns or allowed students to get their hands on them. The presence of armed guards and police on school grounds also leads to greater criminalization of children at younger ages and pushes children—especially Black and Hispanic boys—into the prison pipeline.
5. Mental health is not a major risk factor for gun violence. People with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Fewer than 5 percent of U.S. gun related killings were committed by people with mental illness between 2001 and 2010. Research suggests access to guns—not mental illness—makes individuals more likely to commit gun violence.
It’s time to educate ourselves, our families and our lawmakers about the truth and organize and vote to stop the indefensible loss of life from guns in America beginning with our children.