Yesterday, Governor Kate Brown released a new Be SMART PSA on the importance of securely storing firearms while children and families are spending more time at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Brown emphasizes the need to store firearms unloaded, locked, and separate from ammunition to prevent unintentional shootings.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, gun sales have skyrocketed around the country, and Oregon is no exception. According to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), the number of background checks conducted in Oregon during April 2020 was nearly 48 percent higher than in April 2019. An Everytown analysis of the NICS numbers also estimates that gun sales in the state rose 67 percent during the same time period.
According to the #NotAnAccident map, there were at least 21 gun deaths as a result of unintentional shootings by children in March and April 2020 — a 43 percent increase compared to average gun deaths during these same two months over the last 3 years.
With children self-quarantining in homes across the country, gun safety advocates are concerned about unintentional shootings, like a recent tragedy in Springfield in which a 12-year-old allegedly unintentionally shot by his friend while playing with a loaded firearm at home from school unsupervised due to COVID-19.
In 2018, firearms were the leading cause of death among children and teens in Oregon. Additionally, nearly 77 percent of unintentional shootings by children take place inside the home.
So far in 2020, there have been at least 109 unintentional shootings by children 17 and younger in which they shot themselves or others. This has resulted in 34 deaths and 78 injuries — nearly one shooting by a child per day. And this may not be the full story. The #NotAnAccident map relies on media coverage to track these tragic shootings, and with strained resources and journalists curtailed in their ability to cover news, it is likely these incidents are currently being underreported.
Volunteers with Oregon Moms Demand Action have been educating their community about Be SMART — a Moms Demand Action program that informs community members on the simple steps to take to securely store guns in the home. The program asks parents and caretakers, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, to ‘Be SMART’ and take these simple steps:
- Secure all guns in homes and vehicles
- Model responsible behavior
- Ask about firearms in other homes your child visit
- Recognize the role of guns in suicide
- Tell your peers to Be SMART
In April, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund unveiled a new PSA in PEOPLE — elevating its Be SMART program and secure gun storage.