How to Prevent Gun Violence

The tragedy in Michigan was a sobering reminder of the risks that our children and school staff take every day by going to school. Our children are facing a mental health crisis while gun access is a major factor affecting whether a child commits suicide. In 2020, gun sales nationally increased by over 60 percentabout 40 percent by first time gun ownersIn Montgomery County, applications to buy a gun nearly doubled in 2020. 

Our children and staff are strong and resilient but we as a community also can take steps to keep them safer at school and at home.

The 2019 MCCPTA Gun Violence Prevention and Safety Resolution (linked here) contains the following important facts and recommendations:
  • Shooters often have a connection to the school – nearly 80 percent of school shooters were school-aged and current or former students.
  • School shooters showed warning signs that concerned others around them, or told their plans to other people, most often peers.
  • Firearms used in school attacks most often come from homes in the community.
  • More than 80 percent of teens who die by gun suicide used a firearm that belonged to someone in their home.
  • Though parents believe their firearms are well hidden, 87 percent of kids know where their parents’ guns are kept, and 60 percent report having handled them.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concludes that the absence of guns from homes is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent suicide, homicide, and unintentional firearm-related injuries to children and adolescents.
  • If there are guns in the home, AAP notes that storing guns unloaded and locked, with ammunition kept in a separate place, can mitigate the risk of child firearm injury.

How can we as caregivers support eachother, our school staff, and our children?

1)    Report any signs that a student may harm themselves or others.

The MCCPTA Resolution recommends early threat assessments and anonymous reporting as an evidence-proven way to prevent gun violence.  I have asked our principal to provide a session, including our Community Engagement Officer (the MCPD officer assigned to our school cluster) and school counselors, to explain the school’s early threat assessment and reporting protocols and systems and to help train caregivers on warning signs.

Early reporting will also help children with mental health needs receive support. One study of school shootings found that 78 percent of the attackers had a history of suicide attempts or suicidal ideations prior to their attack. Many of the attackers (61%) demonstrated a history of suicidal attempts, as well as had a documented history of experiencing symptoms of extreme depression or desperation, prior to an attack. 71% of the attackers were victims of bullying.

Below are links discussing signs of suicide specifically.

Below are links discussing signs of suicide specifically.

Preventing Suicide

Preventing Suicide (Spanish)

Another priority is removing gun access from the child.  If they are alerted in time, the school and local law enforcement can use Maryland’s Extreme Risk Protection Order law (Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety § 5-601, et seq) to obtain an order to temporarily remove access to firearms from a student at risk to themselves or others.

2)    Spread the word on gun storage.

Many in our community own guns for a variety of reasons, and in 2020, many more in Montgomery County became first time gun owners. Caregivers have a legal responsibility to restrict children’s access to guns and we all can do our part to spread the word on gun storage.  Under Maryland state law, “a person may not store or leave a loaded firearm in a location where the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised child would gain access to the firearm” (Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 4-104). I have attached Be Smart digital postcards on gun safety. I have asked the principal at my children’s schools to circulate these and other items.

More on gun storage

More on gun storage (Spanish)

Our teens are better able to bypass these measures than younger children, so please keep that in mind as well.  Please, please circulate these links and postcards on social media and to your children’s schools and remind your friends, fellow caregivers, and schools to speak up if they see warning signs and to unload their guns, lock them securely, and store the ammo separately.

More resources on gun safety can be found here: