Asking Questions Saves Lives

06/21/2011 07:40 pm ET | Updated Aug 21, 2011

Every day in the United States, 83 lives are cut short as a result of gun violence and the lax restrictions on firearms sales that exacerbate this fatal problem. Today, we recognize National ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Day in an effort to bring an end to gun violence impacting children and families across America.

National ASK Day is a day of focus on the lifesaving message of the ASK campaign. While parents ask lots of questions to protect their children when they go play at the home of a friend, neighbor or relative, they rarely ask: "Is there a gun where my child plays?" Approximately half of youth gun deaths, or more than 1,500 per year, occur because parents, relatives or friends leave guns accessible to kids.

In New York State alone, more than 95,000 youths live in homes with loaded weapons, and over 52,000 of these households have loaded and unlocked firearms. Six months ago, 10-year-old Brandon Scandrett was killed in an accidental shooting at his stepfather's home in Newburgh where there was a loaded handgun in a bag; almost two weeks ago, my District lost 16-year-old Tysha Jones who was shot while enjoying a day at the beach. This past weekend alone, seven New Yorkers were killed by guns across the state. How many more avoidable tragedies must we witness before we, as a nation, take substantive action to solve this problem?

Many community organizations such as the Harlem Mothers SAVE and Street Corner Resources in my district and advocacy groups such as New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign to Reduce Gun Violence have given gun-violence victims a voice by raising public awareness and lobbying their elected officials for stricter regulations. The government, at the local, state, and national level, should reinforce stringent measures that compel gun owners to handle their weapons more responsibly and keep them away from children.

The current restrictions on gun sales in America have proved ineffective and have failed us all at the most critical moments. Over 40 percent of U.S. households with children have guns; protecting our children's safety is vital in shaping the future of our great nation. It is our moral duty to provide them with safe areas to play and enjoy life, free from all types of fear or violence.

We've all witnessed the pain guns have inflicted upon our nation. Every day families are forced to bury their loved ones too early. Communities everywhere are destroyed and millions watch in despair when precious lives -- especially children -- are taken by a shot. On this National ASK DAY and every day after, I encourage parents to talk to their children about the dangers of firearms and ensure that no children can get their hands on another gun.