Letter: The weaponized virus — children at risk | SteamboatToday.com

Letter: The weaponized virus — children at risk

She was 3 years old when her 7-year-old brother pulled the trigger. The loaded shotgun had been left on a couch. He and another sibling are in foster care. Their mother is in jail on charges of child abuse/neglect. A family nightmare in Colorado.

There have always been tragic accidents involving children and unsecured guns. Why should COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders make us more concerned?

Gun sales in the United States are setting records in response to fear of coronavirus, according to new data from the FBI: 6,543,155 sold in February and March. In Colorado, background checks soared over 52,000 in March of 2020, up from 33,000 the same month 2019. According to a long established gun dealer and advocate in Austin, Texas, “Many didn’t care what kind of firearm they bought — just so long as they felt protected. That scared the hell out of me,” he said. He sold models he said he “couldn’t give away” before then.

Businesses, factories and organizations in Colorado are starting to open up again; many parents are relieved at their ability to start work with regular paychecks coming. They’re also concerned about the children left at home, largely unsupervised. They should be: 73% of children younger than 10 living in homes with guns know where they are hidden. And one-third have handled them already.

Accidental shootings are not the only increased risk for children.  Numerous studies show that access to firearms increases the odds of suicide: five times greater when there are guns in the home. In teenage years, mood swings may be extreme. Teens today are in lockdown, struggling to complete assignments online, separated from their peers, watching anticipated events canceled. Ninety percent of youth who use a gun to commit suicide use one found in the home.

The remedy? Safe storage is an area of agreement among groups that otherwise differ. The NRA and the Brady Organization offer similar safety tips:

  • Teach young children simple steps: Stop, Don’t Touch, Run Away, Tell an Adult.
  • For owners: Store guns and ammunition so that they are not accessible.
  • For owners: Use trigger locks, padlocked gun cases, strong boxes and safes.

The pandemic is scary enough without adding a gun violence epidemic. Let’s make our community aware of the threats and the safety measures to address them. Children’s lives matter.

Lulu Gould
Steamboat Springs
Myra Isenhart

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Letter to the Editor