The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates more than 110 million Americans are traveling this holiday season to visit family and friends. That’s not a record high but is significantly above last year’s numbers – 34 percent higher – given that so many Americans stayed home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year saw a record-high number of firearm purchases as more than 21 million Americans passed a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check to buy a gun. More than 8.4 million were first-time buyers and as of November this year, the numbers are only slightly behind for 2021.
The convergence of the two trends gives occasion for a critical reminder as people gather to celebrate the holidays and New Year. Safe and secure firearm storage in the home is always a pillar of responsible gun ownership but with children and guests in the house, it’s a reminder to double-check safe storage practices.
NSSF’s Project ChildSafe was developed by the firearm industry trade association to educate and remind gun owners to properly store firearms in the home when not in use. That means using a gun safe, trigger or cable locking device and always keeping firearms unloaded when not in use. Keeping firearms out of reach of children or locked away to prevent access by individuals who shouldn’t possess a gun is vitally important to prevent tragedies.
NSSF President and CEO Joe Bartozzi attended a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on safe firearm storage to provide testimony in support of the industry’s efforts and proven track record of success achieved through Project ChildSafe. Bartozzi summed up the importance of safe storage education before an accident occurs.
“What we’re talking about here, from NSSF’s perspective, is a proactive approach to educating people. It is more important to prevent a tragedy than to deal with the pieces afterwards,” Bartozzi said.
The firearm industry doesn’t just merely preach gun safety in the home. The entire industry walks the walk too. Through partnerships with over 15,000 local law enforcement agencies in every state and five territories, Project ChildSafe has provided educational materials and free firearm safety kits to gun owners. This includes handing out more than 40 million locking devices free of charge. Combined with similar cable-style locks provided by firearm manufactures with every retail firearm purchase, that equals more than 100 million free gun locking devices.
“We know the program works. In the 22 years that Project ChildSafe has been in existence, we know that fatal [firearm] accidents have decreased by 40 percent,” Bartozzi added. “We are seeing progress and progress is a good thing – it means we’re having an impact.”
Having a Brave Conversation
Safe firearm storage in the home isn’t just about preventing the tragedy of an accident involving a child. It also means ensuring those who may be enduring a mental health crisis, especially during the holidays, can’t harm themselves with an unsecured gun.
NSSF partners with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on efforts to encourage family and friends to have a “Brave Conversation” with loved ones in hopes of preventing the tragedy of suicide. These efforts include providing firearm retailers and range operators toolkits to educate gun owners about suicide risk and encourages them to safely store their firearms if they or their loved ones have suicidal thoughts.
The holidays and New Year are wonderful times to spend with family, especially after the past two years have made doing so difficult. Project ChildSafe is just one of several NSSF Real Solutions for Safer Communities initiatives to help reduce unintended firearm accidents.
With the excitement that family get-togethers bring to all, it’s critical that gun owners remember to practice safe firearm storage.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.