HYATTSVILLE — The Hyattsville City Council, in collaboration with a community group of Hyattsville residents, declared June 21 as Asking Saves Kids (ASK) Day to bring awareness to gun safety.
“The idea is to raise awareness of the potential for kids to get hurt by unlocked guns,” said Hyattsville Community Services Director Jake Rollow. “In addition to raising awareness of that, the goal is to encourage parents to ask each other whether they have unlocked guns in their homes before allowing their kids to go over to another child’s home.”
ASK Day is a national event that was created to make people aware of the fact that guns are the second leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. and impress upon parents the importance of asking if unlocked guns are present in a home before sending their kids over to play.
According to the ASK Campaign, easy access to guns in homes where children are present is common. They say that one in three homes with children have a gun, whether locked or unlocked, three in four children know where the gun is located and 80% of unintentional firearm deaths of children under the age of 15 happen within the home.
The event was brought to the attention of the city council by a community group called Tired Parents, a subgroup of Hyattsville Area Residents for Progress, who work as public advocates for issues important to them as parents, Rollow said.
Tired Parents had been advocating for the topic of asking about unsecured guns for a year and a half, said Spokesperson Lauren Vulanovic. Through a series of community conversations, they were able to get the community together to discuss the topic and the impact of gun safety in the community.
They then approached the city council about being a part of the national movement.
“We approached the city council in January with a draft of a proclamation officially declaring June 21 ASK Day and the city council thought that was great,” said Vulanovic.
With support from the mayor and the police department, soon an official proclamation was created. Finally, at their meeting on June 3, the city council voted unanimously to declare June 21 as ASK Day in Hyattsville.
“Before a playdate, parents often ask about food allergies, pets, what adults will be home,” said Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth. “We’re asking parents to include one more question in that conversation, a question that can prevent a tragedy.”
The ASK Campaign has been in action for over a decade and, according to their website, they have inspired 19 million households across the nation to ask if there are easily accessible guns in places where their children play.
They have partnered with 400 grassroots organizations and partner with Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the American Academy of Pediatrics to spread their message.
ASK Day is all about raising awareness, according to Rollow, and the city has taken part in various campaigns throughout the months to get across to residents the importance of asking about guns in homes their children are going to.
The city has shared information on social media, sent out newsletters and spread awareness at their annual Summer Jam, a city-wide block party that brought together residents for food, music and games.
Since the Summer Jam happened to fall on the same day as ASK Day, Tired Parents used that to their advantage by hosting a table where they passed out information about the day and had people take a pledge to ask about guns in homes.
According to Vulanovic, 60 people took the pledge that day.
“We know gun violence is one of the top killers of kids under 13,” said Vulanovic. “When we have unsecured firearms, if kids find them, they can shoot themselves after finding the gun. ASK Day is about having conversations that can be awkward about having guns in the home.”
Although ASK Day is over, Tired Parents will continue to spread awareness of the importance of asking about guns in homes throughout the summer and into the school year.
According to Vulanovic, the organization will hold play dates where kids can come to play in the park while parents can talk about why asking about guns is taboo and how that can be changed. When school starts, they also plan to work with local PTA’s to send letters home with students about the importance of asking.
“We as a city, we don’t want to see any kid get hurt or killed by an unlocked gun,” Rollow said. “We think all parents feel that anyway. Our hope is that they see the message behind this campaign and they don’t think twice, and it becomes a comfortable question that folks get used to asking before scheduling times for their kids to hang out.”