Editors Note: This letter originally appeared in 1999
Dear Ann Landers, I would like to ask your help in getting across an important message. Due to recent tragedies, the issue of children and guns is again in the news. However, as in the past, concern for children has been lost in a debate between entrenched positions. Whatever our personal views may be, it is time to move forward and do something to protect children from gun violence.
For this reason, I have co-founded an organization called Common Sense About Kids and Guns. Common Sense is unique in that it brings together gun owners and non-gun owners, united in their desire to protect children. The organization includes both gun manufacturers and gun-control advocates. At Common Sense, we recognize that it is the responsibility of adults to protect children from guns, and urge all adults to take steps to do this.
Our message IS common sense. To ensure the safety of children, all gun owners should: unload and lock up their guns, lock and store ammunition separately, and hide keys where kids are unable to find them.
Furthermore, all parents MUST: ask the parents of their children's playmates whether they have guns in the house, and if so, ask that they be safely stored; talk to their kids about guns; and teach kids not to touch guns, and to tell an adult if they find one.
These simple yet crucial steps can drastically reduce the number of children harmed by guns. We have seen too many children injured by gun violence, and it is our duty to end this now. Please urge your readers to use common sense when dealing with guns and children. For more information, people can visit our website at www.kidsandguns.org, or call 1-877-955-KIDS (1-877-955-5437). The child they save may be their own. -- Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Washington, D.C.
Dear Victoria Reggie Kennedy, I have correspondence in my files that goes back 30 years from your husband, Sen. Ted Kennedy, on this very subject. It seems in spite of his best efforts, and mine, we have not made much progress.
Marian Wright Edelman, in her excellent book "Lanterns" (Beacon Press), wrote, "We must act now to take guns out of the hands of children and those who kill children. Whether you are a hunter, NRA member, gun owner or not, you will agree that we all must do everything we can to prevent children from killing and being killed by guns. An overwhelming majority of Americans favor gun-control measures, including 80 percent of gun owners. I hope our voters will insist that our leaders protect our children instead of guns."