On Sunday, Oct. 25, a 4 year old in Sitka found a loaded AK-47 in their home — and fired it. Please read that sentence again — and let the terror of that sink in. Bullets went through the trailer walls and, fortunately, no one was hurt or killed.
Sitka police Sgt. Lance Ewers spelled out the danger: “When kids get ahold of guns, they could kill themselves, they could kill … the other child that was living in the residence,” he said. “It could have hurt [or] killed somebody living next door.”
It is always an adult’s responsibility to safely store firearms so they cannot be accessed by children, teens and other vulnerable people. Research shows that when guns are stored securely the risk of self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries among children and teens is reduced by 85%.
Here, in Juneau, we also need to do better! The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, administered by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, reports that 57.5% of Juneau high school students (JDHS, TMHS) say they can quickly access a loaded gun. This is significantly higher than in Anchorage (40.6%) and higher than for high school students statewide (48.9%).
It is the responsibility of all of us to keep our children and teens safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that if you own a gun, store it in a gun safe unloaded, locked and separate from ammunition. For more information about keeping kids safe from firearms, see www.besmartforkids.org.