Cardow, The Ottawa Citizen

Where Does Safety Begin?

Safety begins in the home. In a New York Times article, children shot accidentally — usually by other children — are the unanticipated casualties of firearm accessibility in homes. These stories are heart-wrenching and happen more frequently than reported. How is it that firearm deaths are one of the top three causes of death of American children? Today, as you are reading this, seven children will die and many more will be injured by guns. Guns are usually bought for protection, but a gun is 22 times more likely to endanger or kill family members (usually women and children) than intruders.

In 2004, 1,804 children and teenagers were murdered in gun homicides, 846 committed suicide with guns, and 143 died in unintentional shootings. A total of 2,852 young people were killed by firearms in the U.S., one every three hours.

Typical story: A 2-year-old boy used a stool to retrieve a gun case in the home, opened the case to remove the small caliber semi-automatic gun that had a round chambered and a fully loaded magazine, and shot himself in the upper right chest.

According to Karen Brock from the Violence Policy Center, “Children can’t legally buy handguns, children can’t legally possess handguns – yet they are killing each other with handguns. The reason: children still have easy access to handguns because of the lax practices of an unregulated gun industry and the mistaken idea that a handgun in the home offers protection, when in reality it is far more likely to result in horrific consequences.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Facts are clear that a home with a gun is a very dangerous place for a woman to be; A woman living in such a home is nearly three times more likely to be murdered than a woman living in a gun-free home. It’s too easy for an abuser, even one with a domestic violence conviction, to get his hands on a gun. Approximately 4,000 American females are murdered each year. Seventeen times as many Latina women are murdered by males they knew rather than by strangers. In states with higher levels of household gun ownership, there are higher rates of female homicide victims.

A study from the Harvard School of Public Health finds that among high-income nations, the United States has the highest rate of female homicide victimization. David Hemenway, PhD, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and lead author of the study, said: “The difference in female homicide victimization rates between the U.S. and other industrialized nations is very large and is closely tied to levels of gun ownership. The relationship cannot be explained by differences in urbanization or income inequality.”

Fact: Americans have the most guns, statistically more than one per person. With approximately 30,000 gun deaths annually we are clearly not doing a good job of protecting our families and communities.

Many of these important issues will be discussed at a town hall forum Safety in Homes, Schools and Communities on Thursday, October 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Faulkner Gallery of the main public library. For more information contact or call (805) 564-6804.

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