DURHAM — As families cooled off with Pelican's SnoBalls on Monday afternoon, they also received information about gun safety, as well as free gun locks.
The Durham County Gun Safety Team promoted its "Asking Saves Lives" campaign in the courtyard of the Durham County Human Services Building, where representatives educated families on ways to protect children from injury or death from a firearm.
"Guns are present overall in approximately 30 percent of homes in the United States," said Dr. Tamera Coyne-Beasley, founder of the team. "That's one in three homes where your children may play or visit. The Ask campaign ... is asking about the presence of guns in places where your children play and visit."
Coyne-Beasley said that according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the safest way to prevent a gun injury is to remove guns from places where children go.
"However, for those who choose not to remove guns from their home, the AAP recommends that you lock up your guns, unload them and store the ammunition locker separately from your firearm."
Monday's event marked the Gun Safety Team's beginning of summer, a time when it is working its hardest to raise awareness.
"Children are home, their friends are over and we want to make sure that parents make their home safe, that if they have firearms that they keep them locked up," said Joanie Ross, public health education specialist.
About the team
The team was founded in 2000 when the Durham County Board of Health came to Coyne-Beasley and asked what could be done to prevent firearm injuries. Her suggestion was a multidisciplinary team approach that would place public health at the forefront.
"This is not about criminality, this is not about incarceration, this is about saving lives," she said.
The team consists of law enforcement, health officials and organizations, pediatric centers, Duke and UNC representatives, NRA members, and interested organizations such as North Carolinians Against Gun Violence. That group was founded 21 years ago after Kristin Lodge-Miller was murdered with an illegally acquired handgun.
'A perfect forum'
"It's been our mission to educate the public about ways to prevent gun violence, and this is a perfect forum for that," said Gail Neely, executive director.
Outreach includes presentations at churches, community groups, work sites, schools and even home gatherings.
Across more than 400 programs since the team's inception, more than 10,000 gun locks have been handed out.
The team focuses on education over advocacy, unified by the belief that no child should die unnecessarily.
"You can't protect your children from everything, but you can do everything you can to protect your children," Coyne-Beasley said.