Before Arranging Playdates, Ask About Guns

According to PAX, more homes in America with children have a gun (40 percent) than have a dog (36 percent), so the results of a parent's inquiries may be enlightening. And don't be too frightened to broach the subject, because a recent Benson Strategy Group survey found that 97 percent of parents who own a gun would not feel uncomfortable if asked about the gun in their home by another parent.

If the parent has a gun for recreation or protection there are follow-up questions that you can ask to make sure the gun is kept securely locked away.

Ask about guns along with other questions: Include the question along with other things you might discuss such as allergies, animals, and seatbelts.
Use current events: Present a media report as a springboard for discussion.
Don't be confrontational: Present your concerns in a respectful manner. You are just trying to make sure your child is playing in a safe environment.

Avoiding School Violence: Speak Up

If a neighbor or friend's family has a gun, you must determine if your child's safety is at risk. Guns should be kept in a gun safe, with the ammunition locked separately or they pose a real risk to your child. Hiding guns is not enough. There are countless tragic stories of kids finding guns that parents thought were well hidden or safely stored. If you have any doubts about the safety of someone's home, you should politely invite the children to play at your house instead.

"I think there are two simple solutions to avoiding unintentional gun injuries and death," said Hardy. "One is, if you're a gun owner, you need to lock up your gun. And the other responsibility that you have as a parent is to make sure that the places that your child goes, are safe as well. So you need to have a conversation with parents about guns."

If parents can learn to ask if there are firearms where their children will be playing, Gross and PAX hope that the children will "Speak Up" -- the name of their campaign -- and report any threats of weapon use in schools.

"The Department of Education and Secret Service tell us that in 81 percent of school shootings, four out of five times, there were kids that knew of the plan of gun violence," Gross said. "That's why we set up a toll-free anonymous hotline for students to call no matter what their weapons related fears are."

The goal of the Speak Up hotline is to encourage kids to do the right thing to protect themselves and to counter the prevalent "don't snitch" message.

"[Students] wanted complete anonymity, and they wanted somewhere to report suspicions without going directly to a teacher or even their local police," Gross said. "Students call 866-SPEAK-UP, they tell us their concerns and then we contact the schools and authorities with a protocol we worked out with the FBI. They are given an anonymous code if they want to call us back and find out what happened."

So far, the call centers staffed by trained professionals every minute of every day have received 30,000 calls, confiscated thousands of weapons and stopped possible tragedies.

Gross wants students to know no threat of violence is too small. "I would rather they call. Don't assume they are joking. Don't assume you will get in trouble. A risk to your safety is never a joke. Stand up for your safety. This 866-SPEAK-UP hotline is literally saving lives."

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