Moms demand action
rebecca noecker city council member, ward 2
Firearms are the leading cause of death for children in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. We have by far the highest rate of child mortality by firearm compared to similarly large and wealthy countries. In fact, 97% of all gun-related deaths of children in wealthy countries occur in the United States, a report from Global Health Policy shows.
As a mom, a neighbor, a former teacher and a public official, I’m horrified by this situation and I’m committed to doing all I can to change it.
With increasing gun violence in our country, we hear tragically often about children being caught in the crossfire of violent public acts. But what’s equally tragic, though less well known, is that many children die from guns they find in their own homes.
Thirty percent of these deaths are by suicide. Youth firearm suicide is at its highest rate in 20 years, and having access to firearms vastly increases the risk of suicide for children. The rate of suicide for children living in homes with guns is four times that of children who live in homes without guns.
Children are also dying more frequently from accidental shootings in their own homes. During the first months of COVID, from March to December 2020, there were 31% more accidental shootings than there were in the same months in 2019. Even our youngest children are affected by these horrible incidents. Among accidental shootings, the two age groups most likely to be both shooters and victims are teenagers, ages 14-17, and preschoolers, ages 5 and younger.
We can change these heart-wrenching statistics. One way is to make sure guns are stored safely. Safe gun storage means unloading firearms by removing all ammunition, securing firearms with a locking device such as a jacket lock, or in a locked location, like a safe or lockbox, and storing ammunition separately from the firearm in a secure location.
Unfortunately, many firearm owners are not practicing safe storage. Research suggests that over half of all gun owners don’t lock all of their guns securely, and nearly one quarter of stolen guns are taken from cars and other vehicles.
When guns are stored safely, they are much less likely to fall into the wrong hands, and suicides and accidental deaths are much less likely. One study found that households that locked both firearms and ammunition were associated with a 78% lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries and an 85 % lower risk of unintentional firearm injuries among children and teens, compared to those that locked neither.
If we can make sure all St. Paul residents safely store their guns, in their homes and cars, we can prevent these kinds of tragedies here.
I’m committed to finding a way for the city to take action on this issue. I’m grateful to be working with Moms Demand Action, a group of organized, energized and knowledgeable advocates, in looking for solutions in St. Paul. While gun-related legislation is generally the prerogative of the state, meaning cities are preempted from enacting more stringent laws, we are exploring what actions are available for us at the local level, especially when it comes to safe storage.
Legislation is just one approach to this issue. We can also make our communities safer by practicing and promoting safe gun storage in our families and neighborhoods. You can learn more and get involved at momsdemandaction.org.
Rebecca Noecker, Ward 2, 15 Kellogg Blvd. W 310-B City Hall, St Paul, MN 55102; 651-266-8620; firstname.lastname@example.org