ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – A group of parents in Roanoke County is working to change the conversation around guns, working to make gun safety the norm instead of the exception. They say it’s a simple message that has the potential to save the lives of thousands of children each year.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics found about 1.7 million kids in the United States live in homes that have loaded and unlocked guns. Each year, more than 1,200 kids die from a gun-related injury -- injuries experts say could have been prevented had a gun been locked up.
Dustin Eshelman, a co-organizer of the One Day. One Voice. event says the message of gun safety and making sure weapons and ammunition are secure is a message that is non-partisan and requires no legislation. She says it’s a message that all parents should be able to rally behind.
“Why isn’t this a bigger message? Why isn't this really pushed in our community the same way it is with recycling?” asks Eshelman. “We really want this to be a social norm, something that if you purchase a gun you have a gun lock and you keep it out of access to your children.“
The study in Pediatrics also found that gun-related injuries are the third leading cause of death for children in America. Whether those injuries are accidental, self-inflicted, or homicides, organizers with the One Day. One Voice. march said the biggest risk factor is access to unlocked guns.
The importance of locking up guns and keeping them out of reach of kids and teens is a message that event organizers are hoping the schools will stand behind as well. Eshelman says she and other parents would love to see information on locking up guns and gun safety included with other back to school documents sent out to parents each year.
“Basically it would just ask every caregiver or guardian of children to promise they will keep any and all firearms as well as prescription opioids and high abuse substances out of access to children,” she says. “It will be locked and away from children, and only the caregivers would have access to the unlocking mechanism.”
She says a family safety promise form would be similar to the bully pledge on acceptable computer usage forms that parents already sign each year.
The movement is catching on quickly. Along with the Roanoke event, other One Day. One Voice. events are currently being planned in Blacksburg, Harrisonburg, Pennsylvania, and Colorado.
The Roanoke event will kick off March 14 at 11:30 a.m. at the Roanoke library downtown. They’re asking everyone who attends to wear white. For more information, click here.