LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The focus of the Hope over Violence series created by our news partners in Lansing has been on gun safety, and how effective and important gun locks are as a way to limit gun violence.

In one public service announcement, the grandfather says,  “She doesn’t know where the gun is.” while the granddaughter says, “Yes, I do. ” Public service announcements like this from Project Child Safe, speak a clear message about gun safety. The group stresses three phrases: Own it, Respect it, Secure it.

If gun owners don’t do that, the unthinkable can happen.

In fact, this past September, a Howell mother and father’s lives were changed forever when their two-year-old got ahold of an unsecured gun that accidentally went off killing him.

The Easter family from Jackson experienced the same life-altering tragedy 10 years ago when their three-year-old got ahold of his father’s gun and it accidentally went off killing him.  

Mark Easter later bought a gun safe as a way to protect his family and prevent something like this from ever happening again. “You know, when I went to pay for it I knew that one hundred dollars for the safe that it cost me that I could have prevented my son from dying and that will haunt me. That’s a cross I have to bear,” Easter told 6 News.

The Easter and Howell families are not alone in their grief. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children and teens are more likely to die because of guns than from car crashes, drug overdoses and cancer.

Experts from the University of Michigan say the numbers are alarming.

Dr. Cynthia Ewell Foster, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan Medical School says, “I would absolutely call it a public health crisis.  Firearms are now the leading cause of death among children in the United States.”  

Statistics published by the Gun Violence Archive show the number of gun-related deaths and injuries of children,  ages 0-11,  from 2018 to 2022 increased by nearly 50%.

The percentage was even higher when reviewing teens, ages 12 to 17.  That number increased by 79%.  “The evidence is clear that if we are storing guns and firearms in our home and property safely, that we can decrease the number of deaths in kids by 70 to 80%,” Dr. Foster said.

Experts from Project Child Safe agree, saying that hiding a gun does not make a home safe. Instead, they urge parents to think about gun storage before they even purchase a gun.  

“Accidents with firearms can be prevented and it really starts with secure storage,” Bill Bassard of Project Child Safe told 6 News. “Everyone needs to think about randomly doing a gun storage safety check on a regular basis.”

Experts say safe storage of guns and gun violence prevention bills like the ones signed into law this Spring by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer can make a significant difference in saving lives.

The new laws also lower the cost of firearm safety devices to ensure owners can safely store their guns, keeping them away from children and out of the hands of criminals. “Especially people who own many types of firearms, like hunters and target shooters,” Bassard added. “They should look at something that can accommodate all those firearms.”