September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Here’s how to Be SMART about saving lives | Opinion

(Josh Locatis/Flickr)

By Nancy Heiden

Access to a gun can be the difference between life and death in a moment of crisis. Firearm suicide is a significant public health crisis in our country, claiming the lives of 23,000 Americans every year, including over 1,100 children and teens.

Every year, more than 600 children age 17 and under die by suicide with a gun. And with more children home from school because of the pandemic, the chances of a young person getting a hold of an unsecured gun are higher than ever. As adults, we’re responsible for keeping our kids and those who are in our care safe.

Approximately 4.6 million children in the U.S. live in a household with at least one gun that is stored both loaded and unlocked. And the consequences can be fatal for young people.

Unsecured guns can lead to unintentional shootings by children, gun suicide, and guns ending up in our schools. But research shows there’s one guaranteed way to prevent these threats: Securely storing firearms. Secure storage of guns saves lives.

Unloaded firearms should be secured with a firearm locking device, such as a jacket or cable lock, or in a locked location, such as a safe or lock box.

Ammunition should be stored separately from the firearm in a secure location. Responsible gun owners know that by making sure your firearms and those of your families and friends are securely stored keeps curious children and vulnerable teens safe.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. In support, Moms Demand Action is raising awareness around child and teen suicides by gun by asking all adults to Be SMART.

Be SMART for Kids is the public health campaign to help parents, caregivers and all adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent child and teen gun deaths and injuries.

Adults can Be SMART by:

  • Securing all guns in your home and vehicles
  • Modeling responsible behavior around guns
  • Asking about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes or places
  • Recognizing the role of guns in suicide

Telling your peers to be SMART For information about suicide prevention, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org or nami.org (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

To learn more about Be SMART, visit besmartforkids.org or join your local group of Moms Demand Action by texting JOIN to 644-33 to get involved. Please take action now.

Nancy Heiden is a volunteer for the gun-violence reduction group Moms Demand Action and the Chester County lead for Be SMART, a public education campaign asking gun owners and non-gun owners alike to take simple steps to reduce the number of unintentional shootings and suicides. She writes from West Chester, Pa.