Every 14th of the month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut, Brady Center members have been holding a one-hour vigil outside of the National Rifle Association headquarters in Fairfax
“We talk about peanut allergies, bad language and bullying. We need to start asking these simple questions that are going to save lives: ‘Is there a gun in the house and is it properly secured?’ It’s time to put it in the lexicon of being a parent.”
— Kevin Bergen, member of the Brady Center’s Northern Virginia Chapter
A combined effort between the Brady Campaign to Prevent Violence and the American Academy of Pediatrics, the nation’s first ASK Day encourages parents to keep their children safe by ASKing, “Is there an unlocked gun where my child plays?”
“It’s an education program,” Martina Leinz, president of the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Brady Campaign, said. “It’s not passing judgment on anyone — it is just encouraging parents to ask if there are guns in the home where their children play and if so, are they safely stored with weapons locked separate from ammunition. Many parents don’t ask this important question because they feel awkward but asking tough questions goes hand-in-hand with parenting. Asking just this one question could save a child’s life.”
The Brady Chapters are the grassroots arms of the central organization headquartered in Washington D.C. The Northern Virginia Chapter is all- volunteer.
“The Brady Campaign provides all the material and we have literature we can share with parents,” Leinz said. “There are chapters like ours all throughout the country that are asking their own communities to be involved, and asking for legislators to spread the word. We are just thrilled that the Alexandria City Council saw the value in ASK day and empowering parents to play an active role in keeping their children safe.”
Though the first officially declared ASK day will take place June 21, the overall campaign has been going on throughout the nation for years. This is the first year, however, that the Virginia chapters have fully embraced the campaign.
“We have been focusing our efforts on passing sensible legislation to make our children safe such as requiring background checks on all gun sales,” Leinz said. “Unfortunately, in both Richmond and Congress, our legislators are failing to act.”
The Brady Campaign has not seen much legislative success in Congress, but that has not stopped its members from fighting for children’s safety around the nation, where gun violence is more pervasive than much of the public even realizes.
“The ASK campaign empowers parents to take action to protect their children even if Congress won’t,” Leinz said. “The sad reality is that one in three homes with children have guns and many of them are left unlocked and loaded which is highly dangerous. Eighty percent of unintentional firearm deaths of kids under 15 occur in a home.”
In honor of this year’s ASK day, Leinz said the Brady Center encourages volunteers to share their life-saving knowledge with everyone they can.
“We are going to be sharing the information with our volunteers and we ask that they share it with their faith communities in their Saturday or Sunday worship services,” Leinz said.
Brady Center volunteers in Northern Virginia have not been exclusively devoting their time and energy to establishing an official ASK day, either. Every 14th of the month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, Brady Center members have been holding a one-hour vigil outside of the NRA headquarters in Fairfax. Saturday, June 14, marked the organization's 18th vigil.
Kevin Bergen, a local member of the Brady Center’s Northern Virginia Chapter, said he has been involved with the organization for about four months.
“There are 60,000 members across the country, and they have inspired 19 million households to ask if there are guns where people play,” Bergen said. “We want parents to ask if there is a gun in the home. It is an issue that should be important to both the right and the left, even for the most passionate NRA member. I don’t think NRA membership is in favor of kids finding loaded and unlocked guns in the home.”
Bergen, a former probation and parole officer, said violent activities involving firearms and children happen every day. He said he is proud to be one of people standing outside of NRA headquarters each month.
“There are always anywhere between 35 and 65 people with signs and banners out there,” he said.
He said he hopes the Alexandria City Council’s proclamation is one big step toward making it a social norm for parents to ask and insist about gun safety in every home across the country.
“We talk about peanut allergies, bad language and bullying,” Bergen said. “We need to start asking these simple questions that are going to save lives: ‘Is there a gun in the house and is it properly secured?’ It’s time to put it in the lexicon of being a parent.”