Right now, we’re practicing social distancing. But that doesn’t mean our activism has to stop! In fact, COVID-19 makes our work to prevent gun violence even more important. With more children at home and gun sales increasing, we can play a role in ensuring our communities are safely storing firearms. Plus, we have more time at home right now to ramp up our typical advocacy for lifesaving legislation and programs to prevent gun violence!
Whether you’re working remote, home from school, or have a few minutes to spare, here are six ways you can prevent gun violence while practicing social distancing amid COVID-19.
1. When you check in with your friends and family, ask “Is there an unlocked gun in your home?”
About 4.6 million children in America live in homes with unsecured firearms. Every day in America, 8 children and teens are unintentionally injured or killed due to Family Fire, which is a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun in the home that results in death or injury. Because of COVID-19 and social distancing, millions of children and family members are spending increased time at home, which means they’re in closer proximity to firearms.
In this time of uncertainty, one thing we can control is ensuring any firearms we own are stored safely. If you’re checking in with family members about their safety precautions around COVID-19, add this key question to your list: “Is there an unlocked gun in your home?"
Research shows that safe firearm storage is a key way to save lives, reducing risk of Family Fire by 73 percent. We encourage gun owners to help End Family Fire by spreading the word about responsible gun ownership and safe storage. Non-gun owners can increase safety by having these conversations about family safety.
2. Download and subscribe to our podcast, “Red, Blue, and Brady!”
Use this time of solitude and social distancing to binge on our podcast! This isn't your typical political podcast. Launched this past fall, "Red, Blue, and Brady" combines current events and personal narratives to explore America's gun violence epidemic.
Every episode, we talk with survivors, academics, politicians, and more for an insightful — and at times humorous — discussion about America’s love of guns, the repercussions that come as a result, and the solutions we need to save lives. Topics include everything from veterans and PTSD to gentrification and white supremacy to toy guns and assault weapons. We present the facts...while still making a few jokes and genuine human connections!
The first episode in our COVID-19 series dropped today. Listen to that episode now, and subscribe so you don’t miss our new episodes coming next week. We’ll be talking with experts from the American Public Health Association (APHA), the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), and more about the intersection of gun violence, public health, and COVID-19.
3. Urge your members of Congress to pass common-sense gun reform!
Thanks to your help, we’ve been having huge successes in advancing lifesaving gun violence prevention legislation across the country. And while COVID-19 has prompted many state legislatures to suspend or postpone their sessions, our increased time at home gives us a powerful opportunity to contact our legislators to make our voices heard.
Here are a few bills in Congress that you can take action on now! Each of these pieces of legislation would address some of the ways that side effects of COVID-19 and social distancing are impacting our safety from gun violence.
Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act!
Because of Mitch McConnell and NRA-financed politicians, victims of domestic violence don’t have sufficient legal protections, and their abusers can still purchase firearms. This is especially troubling right now given that social distancing and isolation at home make victims of domestic violence particularly vulnerable to abuse. We know that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk that a woman will be murdered by 500%.
A year ago, the House reauthorized VAWA to include a lifesaving measure to keep guns away from convicted domestic abusers. This provision would close a deadly gap in our gun laws called the “boyfriend loophole.” But McConnell caved to the NRA and chose to let VAWA expire rather than prevent convicted domestic abusers and stalkers to buy guns. It's time that our lawmakers put people before profits and reauthorize VAWA. Urge your senators to immediately reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and get guns out of abusers’ hands!
Pass the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019!
Extreme risk laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) or “red flag laws,” are a proven tool to prevent firearm suicide. These measures are especially vital right now because social distancing can increase feelings of depression and isolation. This is particularly true for vulnerable populations like older adults, veterans, and people living with mental illness. Firearm suicides have gone up nearly every year since 2006, but we are anything but helpless to stop this crisis.
Extreme risk laws keep temporary crises from becoming permanent tragedies. These lifesaving policy measures allow family members and law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from people and loved ones in crisis or most at risk of harming themselves or others. A total of 17 states and Washington, D.C., have an extreme risk law in place. But if we truly want to prevent tragedies — especially at a time when COVID-19 is exacerbating feelings of anxiety and isolation — then we need this lifesaving legislation on a federal level. Urge Congress to pass the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019!
Pass Universal Background Checks!
Concerns and fears around COVID-19 have prompted huge surges in gun sales, with gun stores reporting long lines and sold-out inventory. One shop in Nebraska reported a 58% increase in gun sales, and dealers across the country are sharing similar figures. Skyrocketing gun sales are a stark reminder that we urgently need universal background checks. Today, 1 in every 5 guns are sold without a background check. It’s crucial that we expand background checks to cover all gun sales, including those sold online and through private sales. A year ago, the House passed bipartisan legislation to do just that. But under the “leadership” of Sen. McConnell, this legislation has gathered dust on his desk. Demand McConnell bring universal background checks to a vote!
4. Take a short break to fill out the 2020 Census!
Every 10 years, everyone living in the United States must complete the census. The goal and purpose of the census is to achieve a total population count of everyone living in the United States. What does filling out the census have to do with preventing gun violence? A lot! It determines how more than $600 billion of federal funding is awarded to states and communities each year as well as how many representatives in Congress each state receives.
An undercount by the census would mean less representation, resources, and power for already marginalized populations — including those most impacted by gun violence.
By ensuring all communities and households complete the census, we have the opportunity to elect more gun violence prevention champions at the local, state, and federal levels. And we can ensure that we get funding for vital community programs to prevent gun violence.
The 2020 census has already begun. You can respond without even leaving your home! There are options to fill out the census by mail, phone, or online. Depending on the size of your household, it can take as little as 10 minutes. The deadline for households to respond is July 31. Learn more and start the 2020 census now!
5. Connect your friends, family, and others with lifesaving resources
More than ever — with social distancing and self-isolation — it is essential that everyone have access to lifesaving mental health tools and resources. For more tips and tools, check out these resources by Team ENOUGH, our youth-led program.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text 741-741
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233
- Teen Line: 800-TLC-TEEN (852-8336) or text TEEN to 839-863
- SAMHSA Disaster Distress Hotline: 1-800-985-5990 of text TalkWithUs to 66746
- Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
- LGBT National Youth Talkline: 800-246-7743
- Steve Fund: Are you a young person of color? Feeling down, stressed or overwhelmed? Text STEVE to 741741
6. Learn your voting options!
In response to COVID-19, many states are pushing back their primary elections. But as always, voting is crucial. Especially amid uncertain times, we must do everything we can to ensure a healthy democracy. How can you help? Learn your voting options! Many states offer voting by mail, early voting, and absentee ballots. Each state has different voting rules and requirements, so make sure you are prepared to vote, know the important dates and deadlines, and understand how COVID-19 may impact your state’s primary. We encourage voters to visit VOTE411.org for the latest information.
- Visit Rock the Vote to learn how you can vote by mail, obtain an absentee ballot, and more!
- First time voter? Check out Vote 411’s first-time voter checklist.
- Visit Rock The Vote to understand how voting works in your state.