It’s probably not something you think about and it’s definitely not something most people in our community would say is common. However, in Washington State, a child or teen is killed by a firearm every 8 days and in the United States, 7 children on average are killed by a firearm daily. Following the tragic Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting in 2014, Seattle Children’s Hospital decided they needed to add firearm storage safety to their list of community education programs and events. Since then, they have held 11 free firearm storage giveaways and safety information events throughout the state. The next one will be held Saturday, June 24 at the Lacey Cabela’s, located at 1600 Gateway Blvd NE from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Seattle Children's Hospital
Event attendees line-up at a safe firearm storage giveaway event in Mount Vernon last month (May). Photo credit: Seattle Children’s Hospital

“Seattle Children’s is dedicated to improving and advocating for the health and well-being of children, teens and families in our community,” says Chelsie Gallagher, senior communications specialist at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital. “As part of our hospital mission, we are committed to preventing injuries among youth. Each year, the hospital provides a variety of community programs and services to help children and teens lead safer, healthier lives – the safe firearm storage program being one of them.”

Most of these events are held in stores such as Cabela’s that offer retails sales of firearms and safe firearm storage devices. A survey, conducted by Seattle Children’s, of both firearm and non-firearm -owning parents– revealed they felt most comfortable discussing firearms at a retailer that sold them, instead of at the hospital or police department, Gallagher explains. “Holding these events in stores that everyone goes to makes people feel more at ease – more welcome and inclusive,” she adds.

The hospital has partnered with Providence Health & Services, Safe Kids Thurston, Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, Lok-It-Up, Cabela’s, and Thurston Gun Sense for this latest event. At the event, over 30 volunteers will educate the attendees on firearm safety, including handing out free storage devices that could save a child’s life. At each event, organizers distribute 350 free lock boxes, 50 trigger locks and up to 600 cable locks. “We started bringing the cable locks because we found gun owners usually have more than one or two firearms in their home, and we want to make sure they can lock up all their firearms,” Gallagher says. The trigger and cable locks fit most handguns and long guns. The lock boxes fit handguns only.

Seattle Children's Hospital
Volunteers from Seattle Children’s demonstrate how to use the lock boxes and trigger locks distributed at a safe firearm storage giveaway event earlier this year in Seattle. Photo credit: Seattle Children’s Hospital

You do not need to pre-register to attend the event; however, supplies are limited and it’s first come, first-served. No ID is required. One lock box or trigger lock will be available per person, two per household. All items must be claimed in person and you must be 18-years-old or over to receive a safety device.

During the event, volunteers also provide education and demonstrations on how to use the devices. In addition, information on why safe firearm storage is so important including information on accidental harm, youth gun violence and suicide prevention, will be offered.

“As part of our hospital mission, we are committed to preventing injuries among youth,” says Gallagher. “We hope that by raising awareness about the importance of safe firearm storage in the home, providing mental health education and by giving parents the tools to safely store their firearms, we can help prevent firearm-related incidents and firearm violence among children and teens.”

While the event is family-friendly, during the education and demonstration portion where they teach adults how to lock and unlock the firearm storage devices, they ask children to stay in the kid’s station area so they don’t learn how to lock/unlock the devices..

Gallagher says the event’s focus is positive community awareness that encourages people to talk about a subject that can sometimes be uncomfortable. Organizers are not concerned about firearm ownership, but instead are focused solely on safety measures and working toward normalizing the culture of firearm safety and storage.

Seattle Children's Hospital
Cathy Bahloul, Nurse Manager at Seattle Children’s Wenatchee Clinic demonstrates how to use a lock to a mom attending a past safe firearm storage giveaway event held in Wenatchee. Photo credit: Seattle Children’s Hospital

“It’s just another way of protecting kids and families,” Gallagher explains. “Just like you put a bike helmet on a child when they ride a bike or a life jacket when in the water, or put them in a car seat in the car – locking up your firearms is just another way of protecting your children,” she says. “And research shows that when firearms are stored locked securely, suicide by firearm is reduced 78 percent and accidental shootings are reduced by 85 percent. Safe storage really make a difference.”

Over the past 11 events hosted around the state by Seattle Children’s Hospital and local community partners, over 3,500 storage devices have been given out. The events are funded by Seattle Children’s and community parnters and they do have a special fund set up for people who wish to donate specifically to their efforts to promote safe firearm storage.

For more information visit the Seattle Children’s Hospital online.

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