Articles, Blog

Firearm Safety

[birds chirping, doves cooing] [whoosh] [♫ ominous music ♫] [♫ ominous music ♫] Hello my name is Ray Romo. I’m a
Program Director for Child Protective Special Investigations. Prior to that I
was a police officer for 27 years serving as a patrolman, investigator,
trainer and administrator. During the last 10 years I’ve assisted CPS
investigators on hundreds of cases helping them keep children and families
safe. And I’m Dmitri Mitchell with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. I’ve been in the law enforcement field for almost 25 years, in that time I’ve had the honor to
serve our citizens and children as a member of the Child Protection Team, the
Family Violence Protection Team and in my current role as a supervisor of the
Major Crimes Unit. [Romo] Recently a keeping children safe handout was provided to
help you discuss child safety and prevention tips when visiting with
families and for use with parental child safety placements. We want you all to
know that this handout also helps when having discussions about firearm safety
as well as safety to children in general as it touches upon topics that you may
not even think of as everyday dangers in homes and vehicles. The purpose of this
training is to go a little deeper and provide you with information so you feel
comfortable in discussing firearm safety with your families. We understand
that not everyone may feel comfortable discussing this with families, however
it’s important to do so because of the inquisitive nature of kids and the
potential for harm if a firearm is not safely secured. We became social workers
in an effort to help others. We chose this profession because we knew that
serving others was a cause worthy enough to devote our careers to. However
social workers must be aware that at times they may be placed in harm’s way
in order to serve and assist their clients. [Mitchell] According to the “Kids and Guns by
the Numbers” report by Diane Sawyer 31 percent of US households had at least one
child and one gun in the home. This percentage is important because it’s a
good reminder of why it is imperative to address firearm safety. This means it is
highly likely a caseworker will visit a home with a firearm in it. While this
training is focused on child safety in the home, we want to start by first
talking about your safety. Social workers will often enter homes without a partner
or law enforcement. Being prepared you can stay safe while helping children and families. Safety is essential to your success you can’t help a family in crisis if you’re concerned for your own well-being. Always be aware, always be
prepared and always keep your safety in mind. Safety begins before you enter the
home. In cases where a firearm is mentioned in the report as a safety
concern. It is imperative that you take a law enforcement with you for your
protection as well as the families. If you go alone and if you see a firearm never
reach for it. If you feel you are in danger
leave immediately call law enforcement for assistance before you go back to the
home and make sure you let your supervisor know immediately of your
concerns. Now that we’ve talked about your safety. Let’s discuss how we can
help families keep children safe from firearms to. Many Texans are familiar
with firearms from hunting, collecting historic firearms or even being a
concealed handgun license holder. You know this can be a bit uncomfortable for
you at first if you are unsure how to bring it up. A good way to think about it
is to remember it as a part of your routine interactions with families just
as we discuss water safety and safe sleep. Firearm safety is another way for
families to recognize potential dangers to children. During your safety
assessment it is important to ask families and caregivers if they own or
have access to guns. We’ll give you some concrete examples in just a bit on how
to have these conversations. The handout discusses the important topics to
address with families such as safe sleep, car safety, water safety, poison
prevention, TV and furniture tip rollers and help with caring for your child. When
sharing this information with families you can incorporate your discussion on
firearms. We want to encourage you do you use to keeping children safe handout
when talking to your families about firearm safety. For those families who
choose to keep a firearm in the home. CPS caseworkers should be providing them
with this information. Texas law may impose a criminal penalty against any
adult if a child actually gains access to a firearm because of this families
should: Keep the firearm locked. Store the
ammunition locked and away from the firearm. Use a gun locking device that
renders the firearm and operable when not in use. A gun lock should be used as
an additional safety precaution and not as a substitute for secure storage. Don’t
assume just because you hide the firearm the child may not find where it is.
Hiding a firearm in a closet, drawer or similar location is not safe firearm
storage. Safe firearm storage should employ multiple barriers to prevent
unauthorized access. Locks can be purchased for older firearms. Project
Child Safe also provides free cable locks for firearms, which are available
by contacting your local law enforcement agency. [Romo] Also during a discussion even if
the family does not keep a firearm in their home it is important to address
the concern because their children may visit a friend, neighbor or family member,
who does keep a firearm in their home. You should also talk to families about
teaching their children what to do if they come across a firearm using the
following tips. Stop and don’t touch Leave the area. Tell an adult. Now let’s
watch to mock scenarios for examples of how to react in different situations. [knocking] [CPS Investigator] Hi [Father} Can help you? [CPS Investigator] My name is Ashley I’m
with Child Protective Services I’m here regarding an open investigation. Do you
mind if I come in for a moment? [Father] I really understand what’s going on but yes
please come in. [Ashley] Thank you, thank you for taking the time to speak with me about the
report today. As I mentioned earlier I did see Ava at school and I talked to her
teacher and there don’t appear to be any concerns for her safety or well-being
right now. [Father] Good, good I was certainly worried when you came to the door. Uhm, I’m
glad my daughter’s okay of course. Is there anything else that we need to talk about?
Actually, yes I’d like to go over some information about child safety. We
already discussed water safety but I’d also like to discuss firearms. This
handout right here has some information and some tips for what to do regarding
firearms in your home. Do you by chance have any firearms in the home?
[Father] Yes, I do actually okay [Ashley] And what do you do to keep Ava safe around those? [Father] Uhm, we have we have cable locks on them. We keep them unloaded at all times and
we keep them in a closet also and Ava knows not to go in that closet. [Ashley] Okay, great. So the some of the options to keep Ava
safe in the home around firearms is to keep the firearm unloaded. To keep the
ammunition separate from the firearm. To use things like cable locks, trigger
locks and personalized locks and to use things like a safe a lock box or vault.
[Father] Okay, okay [Ashley] Have you ever talked to a Ava about what to do if she comes across a firearm? [Father] Uhm, Honestly, no we never really had because we’re so safe with our firearms
it’s never really been a concern for us before, but you make a great point. Do you
have any suggestions on how to go about that? [Romo] You can see in this scenario that everything is going well. The father has allowed you into the home and he’s
willing to discuss the report. Let’s see what happens next. [Ashley] I do actually, so there’s three important things that she should remember and do
if she does come across a firearm. First is to “Stop do not touch the firearm. To
leave the area and to tell an adult immediately” [Father] Okay, so those are really
great tips because now that you mention it we go to my brother’s house quite a
bit and I know he has firearms and I’ve just never thought about asking him you
know where he keeps them and I certainly never thought about what what happened
to Ava if she ever got her hands on them before. As a parent there’s a scary
thing to think about so I’ll definitely sit down for tonight and talk with her
about it thanks for that. I appreciate it. [Ashley] Great thanks. [Romo] As you can see this was the ideal scenario. The caseworker was able to discuss firearm safety with a parent
and even provide tips on how to teach their children what to do in case they
come across a firearm. While no two cases are alike, you can
utilize some of the techniques the caseworker used in this scenario. Let’s
look at the second scenario. {Ashley] Thank you for taking the time to speak with me
today about the report. Like I said earlier I did see Ava at
school this morning and I spoke to her teacher and they’re not only appear to
be any concerns for her safety or well-being right now. [Father] I could have told
you that before you went to the school. I mean I know I’m a good parent but
I mean is there anything else we need to talk about? [Ashley] Actually I would like to go
over some child safety tips in your home. We already discussed water safety
earlier, but I would like to discuss firearm safety. Do you by chance have any
firearms in your home? [Father] I don’t really feel comfortable with you asking me that
question. I don’t, I don’t see how that’s into your business. [Ashley] One of the things I
like to do, as part of my job is to cover all sorts of safety risks with parents. As
CPS is committed to ensuring child safety and firearms play a really big
role in safety risks. If a child gets a hold of a firearm and doesn’t know what
to do. It can cause a tragic accident. [Father] Well I’m an American citizen. I know it’s
every right that I have to own a gun. I don’t see what this has to do with my
CPS case at all. [Romo] As you can see in a scenario the father is a bit disgruntled
discussing his firearms. In these situations it’s important to note
firearm safety is important for all families. We are not singling anyone out.
Let’s see how this plays out. [Ashley] I completely understand and it is your
right to own a gun my job is to ensure child safety and so I want to discuss
with you how to keep Ava safe around firearms in your home. And around
firearms in the homes of others that’s [Father] That’s a fair point and I understand
that I just know that many people out there have biases against gun owners.
[Ashley] Well there’s a couple ways that you can keep firearms safe in your home. You can
keep them unloaded. You can keep the ammunition separate from the firearm. You
can use things like cable locks, trigger locks, personalized locks and so forth or
you can also use a lock box or a safe vault or something of that sort. Do any
of these options sound like something you might be interested in? [Father] We keep all
of our firearms unloaded and stowed away out of reach of Ava. Uhm, I certainly I never
thought about using a lock though. [Ashley] There’s actually a couple resources you can use
to get a cable lock or a trigger lock. You can reach out to your local police
department or Sheriff’s Office and you can also visit a website called Project
Child Safe dot Org and they can provide you with a free safety kit and a free lock.
[Father] Okay I didn’t realize that that’s something I’ll definitely look into. [Ashley] And
have you ever talked to Ava about what to do if she comes across the firearm?
[Father] Absolutely I’ve talked to her about it before I’m she knows that they’re
dangerous and to stay away from them at all times. [Ashley] Okay well there’s three
important steps that she needs to know about if she does come across one. The
first one is stop don’t touch the firearm, to leave the area and tell
adult immediately. [Father] Those are great tips thanks for sharing that. [Ashley] Sure and just to
keep in mind that once again it’s not only about firearm safety in your home,
but it’s also something you need to be aware of in any homes that she’s
visiting or spending considerable time in. [Father] That’s a good point then they never
crossed my mind The father was initially reluctant to
discussing firearms in his home. Simply by explaining the reason for a
discussion. The father understood why was such an
important topic. Whatever your feelings are about firearms, maintain professional
boundaries and don’t discuss your personal opinions. It’s important not to
be judgmental about whether our family chooses to have firearms in the home or
not also it is not. Also it is not important for you to see the firearms, see where they’re
stored or record serial numbers. [Ashley talking to supervisor] [Romo] Remember that if a family is becoming agitated
and upset for any reason or if a firearm in the home makes you feel unsafe. You
have permission to leave the home and address safety at a later date.
Also the worker was able to refer the father to great resources available
throughout the state of Texas. We also would like to address a topic you may be
familiar with. With the passage of recent legislative updates what once was
referred to as a concealed handgun license is now and license to carry or
LTC. A license holder is no longer required to conceal the firearm and may
display it openly in public. State law mandates certain requirements in order
to obtain a license to carry a firearm. This includes attending and passing a
training course. This course is 8 hours long and led by an instructor. At the
conclusion of the course students must pass a written exam, and a shooting course. [gunshots] [ Mitchell] Once the training is completed the individual can apply for a license by submitting their
application to the Department of Public Safety. The same
Department that issues driver’s licenses. The law states when openly carrying a
firearm it must be secured in either a belt or shoulder holster. As you go about
your day to day activities if you see someone openly carrying a
firearm. Do not ask if they have a license to carry. [Romo] If you have questions
talk with your supervisors and don’t forget that your Special Investigators
are there to support you when you work with families. Your regional Special
Investigators can assist in cases where firearms may be present and remember law
enforcement is there for you as well. Our number-one job is to help families keep
children safe. The tips you learned today will help you in your casework and in
your discussions with families. The conversations you have with parents and
caregivers about everyday safety ranging from firearm safety, safe sleep
environment and water safety are equally important as well. The work that you do
impacts the lives of families each and every day. Thank you for your hard work
and for being part of the DFPS family. And above all else keep yourself safe
and help your families keep their children safe as well [♫ fast beat electronic music ♫ ] [♫ violin music ♫]

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