Forty percent of American homes with a child in them have guns. Thirty percent have dogs. Those statistics should prompt parents to ask whether the homes where their children play have firearms, and if so, whether the guns are locked away and stored separately from ammunition, state, Portland leaders said yesterday, The Oregonian reports. Portland Mayor Tom Potter helped kick off Portland’s “ASK” campaign — “Asking Saves Kids.” Donated billboards will go up throughout the city by the end of December to encourage parents to protect their children by questioning: “Is there a gun where my child plays?” The New York-based nonprofit group PAX (Latin for peace), arted the national campaign seven years ago.
Kelly Rice of Ceasefire Oregon said she learned after the fact that her two sons, ages 5 and 7, had been playing at a friend’s home where a loaded gun sat in a nightstand. Guns kill eight children or teenagers every day in the U.S., making firearms the second leading cause of death for children 10 to 19 years old. About 90 percent of unintentional shootings involving children are linked to an easy to find, loaded handgun in a house. Parents routinely ask about animals, contents of medicine cabinets, food and allergies before letting their children play at a friend’s home, but not about guns, said Dan Gross, founder of PAX and the national ASK campaign. Gross started the nonprofit after his brother was shot in the head in 1997 on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Potter, a former Portland police chief, said he knew of many cases when officers, including himself, went to calls where a child was wounded or had shot another while playing with a loaded gun left unsecure.