Parents Urged to Ask Tough Questions About Gun AccessibilityPublished Thursday, June 23, 2011
Though she’s still confined to a wheel chair, Yamel Trigo has made amazing progress since the night she was wheeled into the emergency room with a gaping gunshot wound to her throat.Her life hung by a thread. She survived, but doctors suspected Yamel’s paralysis would be permanent. Today the 19-year-old, a psychology major in college, hopes to continue to beat the odds and to walk again someday.
“Like a lot of kids, I thought guns were something you can play with. I was lucky – and I’m very glad to be alive,” said Yamel, who recounted the fateful day in 2007 that her cousin shot her. The two girls were playing with Yamel’s stepfather’s rifle in the living room and wanted to pose for a picture. Everyone thought the chamber was empty when her cousin aimed the rifle and pulled the trigger.
Yamel was one of several speakers who urged increased gun safety awareness at the celebration of Asking Saves Kids (ASK) Day, held June 21 at the University of Miami’s Batchelor Children’s Research Institute at the UM/Jackson Memorial Hospital complex. Sponsored nationally by the American Academy of Pediatricians and a broad local coalition that includes The Children's Trust, law enforcement and the public schools, ASK Day takes place the first day of summer, the season when children typically spend more time at home – often unattended.
Schaechter said that the UM Miller School of Medicine has supported the ASK campaign and other child safety issues for more than a decade. New legislation passed by the Florida Legislature that limits pediatricians and health-care professionals from asking parents and patients whether firearms are kept in the home has caused concern and sparked new support for the campaign, she said.
Rev. George Ellis, minister at Miami’s River of Life and chair of Miami-Dade’s Juvenile Justice Board, offered an invocation and pronounced the day “Asking Saves Kids Day” in Miami. He urged parents to act wisely if they keep weapons in the home and to ask questions of their children. “By asking these questions we may save a child’s life,” Ellis said.
Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, noted that 75 children are shot daily across the United States – and 65 percent of those find a gun in their own home or in the home of a relative or friend. He called for stricter legislation to regulate the sale and accessiblity of guns, especially high-powered automatic weapons.
Children’s Trust President and CEO Modesto Abety-Gutierrez communicated a message for support of Asking Saves Kids in English and Spanish.
“We want parents to ask their friends and neighbors, to ask aunts and uncles, grandparents – wherever their child plays – is there a gun in the house? Is it locked? We’re urging all parents to be mindful and careful,” Abety-Gutierrez said.
Luis Amaro was victimized by gun violence and attended ASK Day to share his story. One evening in 1999, he stepped out of his car after returning home from work when a neighborhood youth drew an automatic pistol and began to fire it in all directions. Amaro was hit three times, once in the spinal cord. The shooter remains in prison.
Today Amaro, confined to a wheel chair, speaks regularly at local high schools to urge greater gun safety awareness. He also serves as a peer-to-peer mentor through a state agency.
Chief Charles Hurley, of the M-DSPD, said the Asking Saves Kids campaign enjoys the support of the entire law enforcement community and that the school system has notified the parents of all 350,000 students to encourage them to become proactive about their child’s safety, both in their own homes and the places their children visit.
“We need to ask the hard questions: What is in your home? A gun? Are your prescription drugs in a secure area? Who will be the adult in charge of ensuring kids’ safety? Help us to ask these questions,” Hurley said.
Written by Michael R. Malone