Countless children are exposed to a variety of firearms in the home, and these weapons cause a majority of the teen homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths. But black teens, black families and other minorities seem to be affected the most.
Statistics since 2007 are not available, but Glenn Heights, Texas Police Department Sergeant Thomas Wilson says, “While the stats are from 2007, most were taken from a 2010 report on gun violence and youth, of which they mostly used statistics from the Center from Disease Control. Unfortunately, stats are not kept in real time and it takes several years to accurately compile the data as best they can and input it into their system.”
The site, www.childtrendsdatabank.org, with statistics dating back to 2007 indicates that deaths were highest among blacks that year (70.3 per 100,000 males, and 5.5 per 100,000 females), and lowest among whites (8.9 per 100,000 males, and 1.9 per 100,000 females). Rates for Hispanics were in-between (26.1 per 100,000 males and 2.5 per 100,000 females) and estimates for Asian and Native Americans were not available. The website also reported that males ages 15 to 19 are about four times more likely than females to die from suicide, (11.1 compared with 2.5 per 100,000, respectively, in 2007) and more than six times more likely to die from homicide (17.6 compared with 2.8 per 100,000, respectively). Males of this age are also eight times more likely to die from a firearm-related incident and in 2007, 21.9 per 100,000 males died by firearms, compared with 2.6 per 100,000 females.
In 2007, the homicide rate for black male teens was 67.1 per 100,000, nearly 20 times higher than the rate for white males (3.4 per 100,000). Rates for other groups were 24.8 per 100,000 for Hispanic males, 10.3 per 100,000 for American Indian males, and 5.5 per 100,000 for Asian and Pacific Islander males. Among females, black and Hispanic teens had the highest homicide rates were at 6.9 and 2.8 per 100,000, respectively.
According to Sergeant Wilson, in 2010, the Children’s Defense Fund reported that there were 2,161 homicides committed against juveniles, 683 juvenile homicides involving firearms and 198 accidental deaths involving firearms with 397 under the age of 15; 154 under the age of 10 and 85 under the age of five. There were also 17,523 non-fatal injuries to juveniles as well.
“It is without question that a number of the homicides, accidents, and suicides committed by firearms, could have been prevented had some of the weapons been properly stored,” Wilson says.
Due to these statistics, the City of Glenn Heights participates in a national program like many other cities in the nation called Project ChildSafe. It is the nation’s largest firearm safety program geared toward keeping children safe from firearms and raising awareness about the proper storage of firearms. Glenn Heights began participating in the program during the early stages of its inception in 2003.
Wilson says that to his knowledge, his city has had no accidental discharges of weapons by children since he joined the department eight years ago, at the same time however, he says he could not imagine leaving it up to those statistics when it comes to gun safety in his own home.
“I have raised my nine-year-old son to be very respectful of firearms and not to touch them unsupervised. In fact, I would bet my life that he wouldn’t if he had the opportunity. However, there is no way in the world that I’d be willing to bet his life on the fact that he wouldn’t.”
Project ChildSafe is an expansion of Project HomeSafe, a program created in 1999 by the National Shooting Sports Foundation to provide key firearms safety education messages to non-traditional firearms owners. It educates gun owners about their responsibilities to safely handle and properly store firearms in the home with the goal of preventing tragic accidents among children.
“Project ChildSafe's success is attributable to its partners — law enforcement, elected officials, community leaders, state agencies, businesses, and individuals,” according to the Project ChildSafe website. “Both Project HomeSafe and Project ChildSafe are part of a bigger program called Project Safe Neighborhoods, a comprehensive, strategic approach to reducing gun violence in America founded during the Bush Administration.”
The present Administration, through the U.S. Department of Justice, provides the necessary resources to ensure the success of Project Safe Neighborhoods in reducing gun violence in local communities, as well as funding a number of programs that target gun crime. Project ChildSafe is the nationwide firearms safety education outreach program that complements these efforts.
The program reminds gun owners to properly store firearms in the home, make certain that firearms in the home are not casually accessible to anyone, especially a child, and provides safety kits that include a cable-style gun-locking device, lock installment instructions, and a safety booklet. The gun-locking device is a cable-style gunlock that meets the American Society for Testing and Materials current testing protocol standard. The cable locks require firearms be unloaded before installation, providing an extra level of safety. Since 2003, the program has distributed over 35 million safety kits to gun owners around the country and in the five U.S. territories.
The website, www.kidscount.org rates each state by the number of teen deaths by firearms; New York has the lowest number and Arkansas rates the highest number of teen deaths by accident and suicide.
“Obviously the goal of our original and continued participation in the program is to simply promote responsible gun ownership and protect the safety of children and others around them.” Wilson says. “We hope to prevent tragedies that occur all too often.”
Contact the local police department in your city to find out if they participate in Project ChildSafe and to learn more about the program as well as receive your gunlock kit.