Pledges promote safety


June 13, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

Prompted in part by a November 2001 shooting accident that claimed the life of a 6-year-old girl, the Washington County Health Department, through the I ASK program, is calling on parents to pledge to ask their neighbors if they have guns in their homes before sending their children over to play.

So far, about 350 families have signed the I ASK pledge locally since last fall, Health Department officials said.

The ASK in I ASK stands for Asking Saves Kids.

The national public health ASK campaign's intent is to give parents something easy to do to protect their children from the danger of gun violence.

The Health Department decided to participate in the program because of concerns about gun safety in the county, said Earl Stoner, the department's director of health services.


Stoner said that if pressed to name one event that sparked the campaign's initiation locally, it would be the Nov. 29, 2001, shooting in which a 6-year-old girl died when a shotgun held by her 8-year-old brother accidentally discharged in their National Pike home.

Parents who have firearms should make sure guns and ammunition are locked up and stored separately, Andrea Harris, administrator of the Health Department's Prevention Services Program, said Thursday.

Health Department employees have gone to the Valley Mall, pediatrician offices' and local community events to get people to sign the pledge, Harris said.

The response has been positive, for the most part, although a few people initially thought the pledge was an anti-gun action, she said.

The issue is to keep children from the homes of gun owners who do not responsibly keep their guns out of reach of children, Harris said.

As part of the campaign, Health Department workers remind children that they should not play with guns, she said.

For more information about the program call 301-790-7947.

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