Virginia’s Largest School System Will Notify Parents About Importance of Secure Firearm Storage

Karl Frisch
6 min readDec 17, 2021

FAIRFAX COUNTY, VA — Last night, Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced (video) Fairfax County Public Schools will notify parents and guardians about Virginia’s new secure firearm storage law, why secure storage is essential, and other ways to prevent gun violence or seek help for a child who could be a threat to themselves or others.

The communication will be sent in January and then annually before the start of each school year. The announcement follows months of advocacy from School Board members Laura Jane Cohen (Springfield District) and Karl Frisch (Providence District).

Before the Superintendent’s announcement, several mothers from Virginia’s Moms Demand Action chapter spoke passionately about the importance of secure storage during the community participation portion of the School Board meeting (video).

Cohen and Frisch responded to last night’s breakthrough:

“I am grateful the Superintendent has agreed to notify parents about the importance of secure firearm storage and how to get help if they worry their child could be in danger. These are best practices. We must partner with parents to address this critical issue and keep our students safe,” said Cohen, the School Board’s Springfield District representative and a volunteer with the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action.

“Fairfax County Public School is joining dozens of other school divisions to encourage secure firearm storage — one of the best tools we have to protect children from gun violence. Our students, teachers, and staff will be safer as a result,” said Frisch, the School Board’s Providence District representative.

Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action sent out a press release this morning which includes the following quotes:

“We owe it to our students to prioritize their safety, both at school and at home, and secure firearm storage is an essential part of that,” said Heather Foglio, a volunteer with the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We know that securely storing guns is one of the best ways to protect our future generations from gun violence, and we are grateful to the Fairfax County School Board and Superintendent for recognizing this and taking meaningful action. We thank board members Laura Jane Cohen and Karl Frisch for their leadership on this issue.”

“We’re so excited to see Fairfax join the nationwide grassroots movement by parents, students and school boards to take action on secure storage policies that help save lives and keep guns out of the hands of children,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action, and Be SMART volunteers have been working district by district to pass similar resolutions, and thanks to their hard work, parents of more than 2 million students are receiving notifications on the importance of securely storing firearms — and we’re just getting started.”

BACKGROUND STATISTICS:

An estimated 5.4 million American children live in households with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm.¹ Here in Virginia, gun dealers saw record-breaking sales of guns and ammunition during the COVID-19 pandemic.² In addition to meaningful gun safety laws and innovative curriculum and safety protocols, evidence strongly suggests that secure firearm storage is an essential component to any effective strategy aimed at keeping schools and students safe.

Every year, nearly 350 children under the age of 18 unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else.³ That’s roughly one unintentional shooting per day, and 77 percent of these incidents take place inside a home. Another 700 children die by gun suicide each year, most often using guns belonging to a family member.⁴

Assessing incidents of gun violence on school grounds, 79 percent of active shooters are current students or recent graduates, and 78 percent of shooters under 18 years of age obtained their guns from their own home, a relative’s home, or friends.⁵

Research shows that secure firearm storage is associated with up to an 85 percent reduction in the risk of self-inflicted and unintentional firearm injuries among children and teens.⁶ It can also help prevent gun thefts.⁷ The U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center underscores the importance of appropriate weapons storage because many school attackers used firearms acquired from their homes.⁸

Surveys show a majority of gun owners admit they do not securely store all their firearms.⁹ In fact, a recent study found that about 1 in 3 people who owned guns stored them loaded and unlocked. Another study found that only 55 percent of gun owners with children said they securely stored all their firearms.¹⁰ Virginia law explicitly requires adults to store firearms where a child is unlikely to gain access.¹¹

Many school divisions in states with similar laws now notify parents/guardians about their legal obligation to securely store their firearms.¹² Some divisions also ask parents to sign an acknowledgment that they understand their legal obligations to securely store firearms.

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¹ Analysis provided to Everytown by Northeastern University’s Dr. Matthew Miller and Harvard University’s Dr. Deborah Azrael based on 2021 National Firearms Survey, August 11, 2021.

² Bowes, Mark. “COVID-19 Contributing to Record-Breaking Spike in Virginia Gun Sales.” Richmond Times Dispatch. 20 March, 2020. https://richmond.com/news/virginia/covid-19-contributing-to-record-breaking-spike-in-virginia-gun-sales/article_ec9d4c09- 81a5–5f87–96d8–1052bcc30e2f.html

³ Everytown for Gun Safety. “#NotAnAccident Index.” https://everytownresearch.org/maps/notanaccident/. Accessed April 28, 2021.

⁴ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using five years of most recent available data: 2015 to 2019. Children defined as aged 0 to 17.

⁵ New York City Police Department. “Active Shooters: Recommendation and Analysis for Risk Mitigation.” 2016. https://on.nyc.gov/2GlEbI1

⁶ Effects of Child-Access Prevention Laws on Unintentional Injuries and Deaths. https://www.rand.org/research/gun- policy/analysis/child-access-prevention/unintentional-injuries.html; Grossman DC, Mueller BA, Riedy C, et al. “Gun Storage Practices and Risk of Youth Suicide and Unintentional Injuries.” JAMA. 2005; 293(6): 707–714. Study found households that locked both firearms and ammunition had an 85 percent lower risk of unintentional firearm deaths than those that locked neither.

⁷ Parsons, Chelsea, and Eugenio Weigend Vargas. “Stolen Guns in America.” Center for American Progress, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/guns-crime/reports/2017/07/25/436533/stolen-guns-america/.

⁸ United States Secret Service. “Averting Targeted School Violence: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Plots Against Schools.” 2021. https://www.secretservice.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2021- 03/USSS%20Averting%20Targeted%20School%20Violence.2021.03.pdf; Morgan, Erin Renee, et al. “Firearm Ownership, Storage Practices, and Suicide Risk Factors in Washington State, 2013–2016.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 108, no. 7, American Public Health Association, May 2018, pp. 882–88. ajph.aphapublications.org.

⁹ Benham, Barbara, and JH Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Survey: More Than Half of U.S. Gun Owners Do Not Safely Store Their Guns.” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2018/survey-more- than-half-of-u-s-gun-owners-do-not-safely-store-their-guns.html.

¹⁰ Crifasi, Cassandra K., et al. “Storage Practices of US Gun Owners in 2016.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 108, no. 4, American Public Health Association, Feb. 2018, pp. 532–37. ajph.aphapublications.org.

¹¹ Va. Code Ann. § 18.2–56.2.

¹² Creighton School District (AZ), Phoenix Union High School District (AZ), Tucson Public Schools (AZ), Alameda Unified School District (CA), Burbank Unified School District (CA), Carlsbad Unified School District (CA), Conejo Valley (CA), Culver City Unified (CA), Davis Joint Unified School District (CA), El Camino Real Charter High School (CA), Elk Grove Unified School District (CA), Glendale Unified School District (CA), Goleta Union School District (CA), Hermosa Beach City School District (CA), Los Angeles Unified School District (CA), Manhattan Beach Unified School District (CA), Monrovia Unified School District (CA), Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (CA), Napa Valley Unified School District (CA), Oceanside Unified School District (CA), Pacific Grove Unified (CA), Poway Unified School District (CA), Sacramento City Unified School District (CA), San Diego Unified School District (CA), Santa Barbara Unified School District (CA), Sequoia Union High School District (CA), Sweetwater Union High School District (CA), Washington Unified School District (CA), Woodland Joint Unified School District (CA), Denver Public Schools (CO), Geneva Community Unit School District Number 304 (IL), Plymouth Public Schools (MA), Santa Fe Public Schools (NM), Clark County School District (NV), Bend La Pine (OR), Lake Oswego School Board (OR), Calhoun County School District (SC), Fairfield County School District (SC), Lexington County School District 3 (SC), Lexington County School District 4 (SC), Orangeburg County School District (SC), Richland School District One (SC), Richland School District Two (SC), Sumter School District (SC), Houston Independent School DIstrict (TX), Champlain Valley School District (VT), Essex Westford School District (VT)

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