Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies guns as the leading cause of death for children.
National Gun Violence Awareness Day is June 2, a day set aside to raise awareness and promote positive change. Policymakers, community members, leaders and parents have taken steps to protect children from gun violence and keep firearms away from children, including advocating for gun safety laws and implementing awareness campaigns.
In July 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 906, which created new obligations for schools regarding gun safety. The law is designed to prevent firearm-related incidents, including incidents that threaten schools. The law took effect on Jan. 1.
As a result, beginning with the 2023-24 school year, schools are required to include information in their annual notification to parents and guardians explaining how to safely store firearms and California’s child access prevention laws.
The information included in the annual notice will be modeled after content developed by the California Department of Education. The easiest and safest way to comply with the law is to keep firearms in a locked container or secured with a locking device that renders the firearm inoperable.
The U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education reported that more than two-thirds of school shooters used firearms from their own home or that of a relative. Accidental shootings occur commonly with firearms in the home.
A child could discover a gun when a parent or another adult is not present. This could happen in the child’s own home; the home of a neighbor, friend or relative; or in a public place such as a school or park.
Children need to know what to do if they encounter a gun. The recommended rules to teach children are:
- Stop: Stop what they are doing.
- Don’t Touch!: Do not touch a gun they find or see. A child may think the best thing to do if they find a gun is to pick it up and take it to an adult. A child needs to know they should never touch a gun they may find or see.
- Leave the Area: Immediately leave the area.
- Tell an Adult: Tell an adult about the gun they found or saw. This includes times when other kids are playing with or shooting a gun.
When it comes to gun violence prevention, schools cannot do it alone.
Schools and families can find resources and tips for safe gun storage and how to talk with kids about guns at besmartforkids.org. The campaign focuses on education and awareness about child gun deaths and secure gun storage.
The entire community can participate in Wear Orange Weekend. Wear Orange Weekend follows National Gun Violence Awareness Day and provides an extended opportunity to engage on gun violence prevention. Orange is the defining color of the gun violence prevention movement and community members are encouraged to wear orange to make visible the urgent need to end gun violence. This year, Wear Orange Weekend will be from June 2 through June 4. To learn more and participate, visit wearorange.org.
Together we can give our youth a future free from gun violence.
San José Spotlight columnist Mary Ann Dewan is the superintendent of schools for Santa Clara County. She has more than 33 years of experience in the field of education. Her columns appear every third Monday of the month.
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