On the Pulse

Seattle Children’s Partners with Community to Turn Heartbreak into Action

6.2.2022 | Guest Authors

Seattle Children's volunteers give away free gun lockers to the public.

Over the past eight years, Seattle Children’s has worked diligently across Washington to protect youth from firearm tragedies and improve safe firearm storage practices.

Lara Sim, Seattle Children’s Director of Community Health and Isabell Sakamoto, Program Manager of Suicide and Injury Prevention at Children’s, bring you this post as part of our Keeping Kids Healthy efforts.

Content warning: In support of trauma-informed communications, please be aware that this message contains topics that may be activating for survivors of gun violence and those who have been impacted by it. Support yourself and loved ones–emotional and crisis support services are available to anyone.

In recent days, communities across the country have been squarely reminded that gun violence is a public health crisis for our children and their families. As we sit at the intersection of these tragedies stemming from deep-rooted issues like racism and gun violence, we not only mourn the victims but join in the grief unleashed by these tragedies; we share our condolences with all who have been impacted.

Seattle Children’s is an institution committed to the healing and well-being of children and youth, so it is more important than ever that we continue to speak up for our values while ensuring that we are dedicated to living up to those words. Our ongoing work must also acknowledge that the regions we serve, including Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WAMI), are certainly not immune.

Seattle Children’s efforts to activate around issues of firearm safety began in earnest in 2014 when former Senior Vice President, Cindy Gazecki, lost a beloved 14-year-old family member in the Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting just 34 miles from our hospital campus.

Addressing safe firearm storage was then and remains now a priority for Children’s. In fact, children and teens particularly pose the greatest risk of firearm-related deaths, including suicide, homicide and unintentional incidents, with most shootings occurring in or around the home.

Today, one in three homes with children in the United States also have a firearm and many of these firearms are kept unlocked or loaded. Even without mass casualty tragedies, the leading cause of fatalities in youths is death by firearms and has jumped by almost 30% in one year.

Turning heartbreak into action is where our Community Health team leads the way and over the past eight years, Seattle Children’s has worked diligently across Washington to protect youth from firearm tragedies and improve safe firearm storage practices. In that time, we have hosted 20 giveaways, distributed over 12,600 free firearm storage devices, and provided education and training to use them at safety events throughout the state, from Seattle to the Tri-Cities and Moses Lake to Vancouver.

Our mission also extends beyond state lines as our dedicated team also offers technical assistance and planning guidance to organizations across the nation to help them launch their own safe firearm storage events and programs.

Practicing safe firearm storage is an effective way to keep kids safe from firearm-related injuries and death. Evaluation of our events has proven to increase safe storage practices. Since 2017, Children’s has also provided education and device distribution in clinic settings to increase home safety and reduce barriers that a patient's family may have to safe firearm storage.

Additionally, every year, thousands of individuals and organizations around the country observe the first Friday in June as National Gun Violence Awareness Day to shine a light on firearm tragedies, honor those lost and deliver strategies to help keep communities safe.

As part of Seattle Children’s enduring commitment to prevent injuries and death among youth, we have continually partnered with our community to offer education and giveaway events for families throughout the year. Events include the distribution of lock boxes or trigger locks at no cost, opportunities to learn about the importance of safe firearm storage and education around grassroots movements to increase community awareness around firearm safety. 

Join the Washington Firearm Tragedy Prevention Network

The Washington State Firearm Tragedy Prevention Network (FTPN) is part of Seattle Children’s promise of collaboration within the community. Founded by Children’s in 2016, we aim to provide a forum for organizations, individuals, businesses and others from a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds to work together to prevent firearm tragedies.

The FTPN meets twice a year, with meeting topics often focused on a wide range of topics including suicide prevention, violence prevention and response, injury prevention, safe firearm storage, community programming, resources, education and research. Currently, network meetings are virtual and open to anyone with an interest in keeping communities safe, educated and informed about firearm tragedy prevention. We look forward to once again hosting the FTPN in various locations around Washington in the near future.

Change comes from action. Today and every day, we commit ourselves to doing everything we can to raise awareness around tragedy prevention and jointly build a future where children and their families feel protected and safe. While we acknowledge there is a lot of work to do, we hope you will join us in these efforts.

Learn More

Email Gun.Safety@seattlechildrens.org to become involved.