Viewpoint: A safer future for our children is possible

Gun Rights

I carried the memory of Kylin Brooks and Kyler Jackson to our nation’s capital as I joined other state legislators from across the country at the White House to discuss gun violence prevention policies.

The loss of these young victims to unintentional shootings in our community are not just statistics, but also birthdays that will never be celebrated, a child who won’t experience joy this holiday season, a family who bears the unimaginable pain of burying a child.

Many legislators who joined me in D.C. have also grieved alongside community members and victims of gun violence, just as I and many of my colleagues in the Indiana legislature. As community leaders, we carry the weight of these tragedies, yet that does not compare to the burden that families carry long after they bury a loved one. 

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As a state legislator, I believe it is my responsibility to uplift and share these stories, and not let them fade into another statistic about gun violence. It is our duty as leaders to fight for policy change in honor of those we have lost.

While at the White House, I learned that Indiana is not alone in this desire to create a safer future for the districts we serve. This convening of state legislators was the largest ever, and the first in history to be dedicated to gun violence prevention. From coast to coast, legislators are working to pass policy at the state level to prevent tragedies and save lives, and the White House is supporting these efforts. On the heels of the Biden-Harris administration creating the first ever Office of Gun Violence Prevention this September, overseen by Vice President Harris, this convening officially launched the Safer States Initiative, to support states in their effort to create their own office of gun violence prevention and related initiatives.

Evidence-based solutions to prevent and respond to gun violence, like strengthening support for victims, investing in community public safety initiatives, creating crime gun intelligence centers, and reinforcing responsible gun ownership are ways we can both support law enforcement in their effort to promote public safety while also supporting victims by minimizing trauma to reduce retaliation and recidivism.

Indiana ranks third in the nation for unintentional child shootings behind Florida and Texas, both of which have 3 to 4 times our state’s population. This year alone, 9 children have been killed in Indiana and 18 have been injured in cities like Elkhart, Goshen and Middlebury, as a result of a child gaining access to a firearm in the home. Unintentional shootings of children are 100% preventable. Educating parents and guardians about the importance of safely storing a firearm in a home where children are present is key to saving lives and preventing injury of children.

That is why, this past legislative session, I successfully amended language into House Enrolled Act 1177, which requires The Department of Education and the Indiana State Police to send information to school parents and guardians about best practices to safely secure a firearm in a home where children are present. Creating a public awareness campaign like this about the harms and risks of an unsecured firearm in the home is a start to ensuring homes remain a safe place for children.

This coming legislative session, I plan to introduce a bill that will invest in hospital-based violence intervention, an effort to support both the medical community and trusted community partners who have been doing the work in our area for years, caring for victims in their most vulnerable state and working to close the revolving door of violent injury.

I will also look to enhance Indiana’s current School Safety Plan statute, to require school violence prevention programs as a way to reduce bullying and teach children at a young age how to handle conflicts in ways other than violence, and reduce aggressive and violent behavior.

I will also continue to share the stories of Kylin Brooks and Kyler Jackson, as we work to pass meaningful child access prevention language in Indiana — modeled off of the official NRA’s own public policy promoting responsible storage — ensuring that no more families have to suffer the loss of a child due to an unintentional firearm death.

This Advent season, we focus on a message of hope, peace, love and joy. I continue to have hope in our youth’s future. I believe in our city’s motto of “peace,” and will continue sharing the memory of lost loved ones in order to change hearts and minds to enact real policy change, to heal the suffering in our community, for all those who will be missing a loved one this holiday season.  And most of all, I will continue to dedicate my work to investing in a safer future for the residents of the district I serve, as I believe it is my duty and responsibility to do so. Thank you for the honor and joy of serving House District 6. A safer future for our children is possible.

 Project Child Safe, a program of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, helps distribute free firearm safety kits across the U.S., and provides a list of locations across Indiana where you can pick up your own free firearm safety kit or gun lock.

State Rep. Maureen Bauer, D-South Bend, represents Indiana House District 6.

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