SMART Gun Storage saves kids from gun violence – with no politicians required.

·3 min read
U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Thomas Dow

Everyone agrees that it is our responsibility as parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, guardians, and friends to protect children from gun violence. Up to 80% of school shooters under the age of 18 obtained the gun they used from their home or the home of a relative or friend.

We are three physicians who want to share a way to keep guns safe at home, that should apply to all guns, even pellet guns. The easy-to-remember phrase is: Be SMART.

S – Secure all guns in your home and vehicle. Guns should be locked and unloaded with the ammunition stored separately. Placing a loaded gun high on a shelf or hiding a gun does not secure it from curious children.

M – Model responsible behavior around guns. Talk to your kids about guns, but also remember that talking is not enough. One study has shown that children who go through gun safety training classes as just as likely to play with guns as those who have not gone through these trainings. Safely securing guns are the only guaranteed way to prevent children from handling guns.

A – Ask about unsecured guns in other homes.

R – Recognize the role guns play in suicide. During the last 2 years we have seen an increase in children with mental health crises. 40% of child suicides involve a gun and having access to a gun incurs a much higher fatality rate in suicide attempts.3

T – Tell your peers to be SMART. Share this message with your family, friends, neighbors, schools.

Studies have shown that households that safely store guns have a 78% lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injury and an 85% lower risk of accidental firearm injuries compared to those households that do not safely store their guns. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages that all guns in the home be safely stored and recommends pediatricians discuss gun safety with parents and children at every well child check.

Let’s all do our best to keep our homes safe for our kids and keep guns out of our schools. Let’s Be SMART.

What motivated us to write this:

In 2013, I (Dr. Bergmann) shadowed Emergency Medicine doctors at Uvalde Memorial Hospital in Uvalde, Texas. I learned of that opportunity from a close friend who had bought her first dental practice there. If she hadn’t moved since then, her daughter would have just completed 4th grade at Robb Elementary — if she had survived. I advocate for safe gun storage and safer gun laws so that we don’t repeat the loss of life like we just had in Uvalde, my former home.

As a pediatrician who cares for children in the ICU, I (Dr. Vidrine) have cared for too many children injured by gun violence throughout my career. Most of these children are victims of normal childhood curiosity leading them to play with and accidentally fire loaded guns they found or innocent victims to gun violence in their neighborhoods. It is because of these patients that I advocate for safe gun storage and common-sense gun laws.

As a child psychiatrist, I (Dr. Kanga) have never seen this high acuity of mental health in our community, and across our nation, as I have in the past year. In fact, in the Fall of 2021, our Surgeon General declared a national emergency in Children’s Mental Health. Many children are thinking about suicide and are even making suicide plans. We know that children with access to firearms will consider using these to take their lives. Moreover, we know that when children have access to firearms, death is more likely. It is for all these children that I advocate for gun safety.

Be SMART is a program focusing on safe gun storage developed by the non-partisan group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Rhea Vidrine, MD; Fareesh Kanga, MD; and Liisa Bergmann, MD are Lexington physicians.