New Resource for Administrators on Safe Firearm Storage

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden emphasized to school leaders that they can play a  role in mitigating school shootings and gun violence, suggesting collaboration with parents to ensure firearms are securely stored, preventing children from accessing them.

During an event at the White House attended by an AFSA delegation, she acknowledged the trust parents place in school leaders and the influence they have in guiding children toward promising futures. Mrs. Biden urged educators to demonstrate to parents that they can actively contribute to averting potential incidents, including shootings, suicides and accidents. 

Recognizing the challenges faced by educators and the emotional impact of such incidents, she expressed gratitude for their efforts, encouraging them to persevere in their commitment to safeguarding students and communities.

According to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) research, approximately three-quarters of perpetrators in school-based active shooter situations acquired their firearm from the home of a parent or close relative. To build further awareness of this issue,  the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center, funded by DOE, is releasing  resources that schools can use to communicate with parents and families about the importance of safe firearm storage, and encourage more people to take preventive action by safely storing firearms. 

“Gun-related injuries and deaths are a heartbreaking public health crisis, and it will take action from all of us to better protect our children,” said U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. “We know that keeping guns locked and securely stored is one of the most effective tools we have for keeping kids safe and preventing senseless tragedies. The resources released today by the Biden-Harris administration will empower principals, school officials and families to better address the issue of safe firearm storage in our communities as we continue to press Congress for greater action on gun violence.”

Nearly 205 of childhood deaths are caused by firearms, and many deaths can be prevented through safe storage of firearms. The resource for principals and district leaders can be used to communicate with parents, families and communities on the importance of safe firearm storage. The resource is accompanied by a letter from Secretary Cardona encouraging principals to take action. By increasing awareness around safe firearm storage, we can help to reduce the risk that weapons get into the wrong hands, and save families and communities from what can tragically result when this happens.

While safe firearm storage is an important factor in preventing death and injury from gun violence, direct and indirect exposure to guns can negatively affect the mental health and well-being of students. The Biden-Harris administration, through the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) and other grant programs, has provided unprecedented funding to establish safe, healthy and supportive learning opportunities and environments; to increase access to school-based mental health services; and to strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-need communities. These historic investments provide greater access to the preventative supports that help keep students safe and healthy. Building on this foundation, the department in January additionally announced $6.4 million in new Project Prevent awards to implement community- and school-based strategies to prevent and mitigate the impacts of community violence, and to address the impacts of exposure to community violence. These investments help advance the President’s Mental Health Strategy, which directly implements his Unity Agenda priority to tackle the mental health crisis in our school communities. In addition, funding for mental health complements the administration’s continued focus on its Raise the Bar: Lead the World initiative.

Guidance on the importance of proper firearm storage comes on the heels of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announcing approximately $50 million in new grants, made possible by BSCA, for states to implement, enhance and expand the use of school-based health services through Medicaid. The grants will provide up to $2.5 million each to as many as 20 states to expand crucial access to mental health and physical health services at schools under the Medicaid program. Secretary Cardona joined U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in issuing a letter this week to states encouraging them to make use of this new funding to ensure that as many schools as possible are providing mental and physical health services at schools, and extending the reach of these services to impact more children. The grants hold promise for connecting millions more American children to critical health care services, particularly for mental health.

The work on safe storage of firearms is part of a broader administrationwide effort led by the newly established White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which highlights the importance of this key preventative strategy in communities across the country. This work builds on crucial actions taken by the President and this administration in addressing the epidemic of gun violence through BSCA, including funding to help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others; enhanced background checks for buyers younger than 21; and new funding for proven, community-based violence prevention initiatives.

photo credit: Nick Gray CC BY 2.0 DEED