Feb 01, 2023Be SMART: Addressing shootings by children through asking about unsecured guns in other homes

Be SMART: Addressing shootings by children through asking about unsecured guns in other homes

Tara Bennett Three-minute read.   Resources

The third step in the Be SMART program is “A” Ask About Unsecured Guns in Other Homes. There are approximately 4.6 million US children living in a household with at least one loaded, unlocked gun. That’s why you need to Ask about firearms in other homes your child visits.

Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens in Missouri. Every year in the United States, 350 children aged 17 and under gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. Nearly 700 more die by suicide with a gun each year. We have the power to prevent tragedies like these from happening, using the Be SMART program to help parents and adults prevent child gun deaths and injuries.

When our children visit other homes, we often ask about allergens, pets, or car seats for rides – things to keep our kids safe. We need to normalize asking about unsecured guns. Asking about guns in the home should be as natural as asking about any other safety issue. If it seems awkward at first, try making it part of your general safety conversation. You might try asking via email or text if you’re uncomfortable at first.

Many unintentional shootings happen in the homes of relatives. It’s very possible that family members or close friends have unsecured guns in their home. Never make assumptions when a child’s safety is at stake. A sample conversation could go like this: “Hi Mom, we are looking forward to Thanksgiving with the whole family—the kids are so excited to see you and their cousins. I know I have never asked this before, but after reading about a 9-year-old boy in Detroit that shot himself with an unsecured shotgun, I just have to ask: Are your guns locked, unloaded and is the ammunition stored separately? Tommy and Ellie get into everything and I don’t want to spend the holidays looking over my shoulder worried about them, or the rest of the kids. I’m happy to purchase gun locks if you don’t have them.”

Want to learn more? Diocesan volunteers are ready to give a 20 minute Be SMART presentation to your church, Adult Formation, Children’s Formation parents, or any other group. A communications toolkit is ready for your use, full of social media and bulletin graphics, articles for your newsletter, handouts, and directions for how to share the message of Be SMART with your congregation. Contact Tara Bennett at peaceandjustice@diowestmo.org for more information, or visit the Peace & Justice Committee page on the Diocesan website.

If you want to be informed about urgent issues, calls to action, legislative alerts, and ongoing gun violence prevention work with The Diocese of West Missouri, please complete our form.

Tara Bennett is chair of the Peace and Justice Committee. A member of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, she is also an active volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.


  • 05-05-2023. Link to an email sign-up form added, and Peace and Justice Chair Tara Bennett’s email address updated.

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