A new group in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley is taking a grassroots approach to preventing unintentional firearm deaths among children by educating parents and gun owners about responsible ways to store guns.
The Moms Demand Action group held its second information session Wednesday to present the organization’s BeSmart campaign message, which aims to make adults responsible for the safety of children while around guns.
According to numbers presented by the group, each year in the United States nearly 300 children younger than age 18 gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else — often fatally. Another 500 children a year kill themselves with a gun.
“Deliberately, there is nothing in this program that says you shouldn’t have a gun,” said Marcia Banta, a member of Moms Demand Action. “As a matter of fact, we are speaking much to people who do own guns. I am confident there is no one in this valley who sells guns that wants those guns to harm children.”
Banta, of Lewiston, has a concealed carry permit. She helped bring the program to the valley because she thinks it offers valuable tips.
As for Christie Fredericksen, also with Moms Demand Action, her family has been personally affected by gun violence.
With the increased school shootings around the nation, she decided to join the organization.
“It’s promoting common-sense solutions to decrease gun violence,” Fredericksen said.
The United States has the highest rate of unintentional shootings in the world, according to the presenters. Around 4.6 million children in America live in homes where guns are not safely locked up or are loaded when not in use.
“Gun violence has become all too common,” Fredericksen said. “If you haven’t been affected by it personally, you most likely know someone who has.”
The campaign’s message is simple. It encourages adults to take five steps to prevent child gun deaths and injuries. Those include securing guns in homes and vehicle by making sure they are unloaded and properly locked up; modeling responsible behavior around guns; asking about unsecured guns in other homes and vehicles kids plan to visit; recognizing the risks of teen suicide; and telling peers about the campaign.
The duo hopes to spur dialogue in the valley that will lead to fewer accidental shootings.
Pat Bates, of Clarkston, supported the campaign’s approach.
“The two loves we have in this valley are guns and children,” Bates said. “We are not saying no to guns at all. We are saying firearms are out here, and our kids are out there. We want our kids to be safe.”
The presentation, held at the Lewiston City Library, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the L-C Valley.
Tomtas may be contacted at email@example.com or at (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.
To arrange a 20-minute presentation or to volunteer for BeSmart, send an email to BeSmartLCV@outlook.com. More information can be found online at besmartforkids.org. Another presentation will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15, at the Asotin County Library, 417 Sycamore St., Clarkston.