Project ChildSafe, an NSSF program, is the leader in promoting safe firearm handling and storage. The program’s efforts are making a difference. Not only are unintentional firearm fatalities at an all-time low, but a new Justice Department report reveals a decrease in unauthorized access to guns by youths.
The accomplishments of the firearm industry initiative are impressive and substantial. Most notably in 2019, Project ChildSafe wrapped up a 30-month initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Justice-Bureau of Justice Assistance. According to Project ChildSafe 2019 Annual Review, this initiative’s purpose was “to launch and sustain three community-wide firearm safety initiatives in Oklahoma City, Memphis and Cleveland and provide additional firearm safety kits and educational resources to communities nationwide to better foster a culture of safety.”
The numbers speak for themselves with the level of effort and success, boasting an impressive 497,301 total locks distributed, 25.8 million social media impressions, and 240 new law enforcement partners recruited. Project ChildSafe helped educate residents of these communities on safe storage to prevent access to firearms from getting into the wrong hands, ultimately saving lives and creating a safer community.
The safe handling and safe storage initiatives that Project ChildSafe leads are becoming even more important with the increase of new gun owners. With the recent pandemic and civil unrest, there has been a significant increase in firearm purchasing activity for a variety of reasons, including self-protection and home defense. Millions of first-time gun buyers have made the need for education and safety devices even more important.
The main goal of Project ChildSafe has consistently been safe storage and education of firearms for the whole family, primarily to reinforce safe practices and avoid unnecessary injury or loss of life. Thanks to this type of education the U.S. has seen a 55% decrease in firearm related fatalities among children over the past two decades.
A recent report out of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2019, demonstrates another valuable metric behind children and firearms. The study sheds light on many aspects of crime and safety at schools regarding child behavior and risk. One thing is clear: there has been an overall reduction in access to firearms without adult supervision. That’s a clear win for firearm owner education.
Another important detail of the study is the inclusion of 18-year-old individuals in the student demographic. At 18, an individual is legally considered an adult and can participate in legal firearm ownership in many parts of the country. Students 18 years of age being counted in the metrics is misleading since they have legal access to firearms unlike the students on the other end of the age spectrum. This conflated categorization lends itself to inaccurate data and may encourage readers to embrace misconceptions around the relationship between firearms and young people.
Manipulating public perception with data that is not well vetted or completely misconstrued is nothing new in our modern day of media sensationalism. NSSF reported a similar misrepresentation of data regarding inflated school shooting incidents just a couple years ago.
That highlighted National Public Radio report which concluded the number of school shootings is vastly overstated. Contrary prevailing public sentiment, the BJS School Crime and Safety: 2019 study shows the percentage of students who reported being afraid of an attack or harm during the school year has been steadily dropping over the past decade.
Keeping our children and communities safe while respecting every citizen’s legal rights is paramount for our industry. More citizens are legally and responsibly owning firearms than ever before. Access to firearms for unauthorized persons is decreasing, and the fear of harm at school is at a steady decline. Educational programs like Project ChildSafe are becoming more beneficial to not only the average gun owner but to all Americans.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.