“Prayer of the Children” is a poignant and pleading song with verses beginning: “Can you hear the prayer of the children?, Can you feel the hearts of the children?, Can you hear the voice of the children?” In this COVID-19 time, with youth and children at home without school, sometimes alone, having time to explore, the times are ripe for tragedy, especially if there are guns in the home. I wrote a blog on 18 March titled “Hope and Healing” which touched on the gun risks during this time. Now, I want to focus on youth and children.

The Giffords Law Center (www.giffords.org), founded by former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords after she was nearly killed in a gun attack, shares important data about youth, children and guns.

1. 4.6 million children and teens live in homes where loaded guns are kept unsecured. 25% of all gun owners report storing all of their guns in an unlocked location in their home.
2. Two of the greatest threats posed by unsecured guns to children, youth and young adults are unintentional shooting and suicide.
3. Children as young as three are strong enough to fire some types of handguns.
4. Between 70-90% of guns used in youth suicides and unintentional shootings among children . . . are acquired from the home or homes of relatives or friends.
5. In one study, 73% of children under the age of 10 living in a home with a gun, reported knowing the location of their parents’ firearms, and 36% admitted they had handled the weapon. Nearly a quarter of parents did not know that their children had handled a gun in their house.
6. According to the CDC, 888 children under the age of 18 died from unintentional gunshot wounds between 2009-2018.
7. Children ages 5-14 are 20 times more likely to be killed in unintentional shootings in the USA than in other high income countries.
8. Data shows that during a crisis, easy access to guns significantly increases risk of death by suicide.
9. Suicide rates in all 50 states have increased over the last 17 years.
10. Youth firearm suicide has been on the rise between 2007-2014, with gun suicide among minors 10 years and older spiking 60% in that period.

What can be done to lessen and prevent gun tragedy in our homes? 1. Unload all weapons; 2. Lock up all weapon; 3. Lock up ammunition in a separate safe; 4. Put key or combination in a hidden location; 5. Remove gun from your house for temporary storage in a friend’s house.

COVID-19 is causing stress which necessitates upping our safety vigilance. Thankfully, there are helpful actions we can take so home life can be filled with joyful hours!

The song concludes: “Crying Jesus, help me to feel the sun again upon my face. For when darkness clears I know you’re near, bringing peace again.”

Peace and Safety,

Rev. Dr. Ron Letnes