My son’s friend was shot – and it’s just a misdemeanor

Misty Uribe
Misty Uribe

The other day, my son was playing “cops and robbers” in Mooresville with four friends when one of them – an 8-year-old boy – acquired an unsecured gun and shot his 11-year-old friend in the face. While the boy’s actions may have been unintentional, this was no accident – it was negligence on the part of the adult gun owner.

When my husband heard the gunshot and a child’s scream March 29, his heart sank. As a parent, the thought of your child being injured or dying as a result of a completely preventable gunshot is unconscionable. Our son ran home shaking from head to toe from what he had just witnessed. We were not prepared to talk to our children about negligent neighborhood shootings, but we explained as calmly as we could the importance of gun safety and that guns are not toys.

It enrages me that, in North Carolina, the punishment for a gun owner who negligently leaves an unsecured gun accessible to children is just a misdemeanor – a mere slap on the wrist – and that the gun will likely be returned to them. As a society, we need to be doing more before there is even an incident in the first place. After the incident, I immediately started researching to see how I can change this and found an organization dedicated to protecting children from senseless gun violence: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. I joined the North Carolina chapter and plan to do everything I can to educate others about the importance of safe gun storage.

Here’s how to prevent senseless deaths

More than 2 million American children live in homes with unsecured guns – 1.7 million of those are in homes with guns that are both loaded and unlocked. Too often parents don’t think their child will be able to find or access a gun, but studies show that more than two-thirds of kids know where their parents keep their guns, even when the parents think they don’t.

As part of the work to create a more responsible gun culture, the Moms group encourages parents and caretakers, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, to ‘Be SMART’. Take these simple steps to help prevent shootings by children: Secure all guns in your home and vehicles; Model responsible behavior around guns; Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes; Recognize the warning signs of suicide; Tell your peers to be SMART.

A recent analysis by Everytown for Gun Safety found that nearly two children ages 14 and under are killed every week in unintentional shootings, and more than two-thirds of these tragedies could have been avoided if gun owners stored their guns locked and unloaded, away from curious children.

It is up to all of us – gun owners and non-gun owners alike – to do our part to keep guns out of the wrong hands, including our children’s.