There's a common misconception that those who advocate for safe gun laws and practices want nothing less than to pry all the firearms from their fellow citizens' hands and take them away forever. For Ashlyn Melton, whose son was accidentally shot at a sleepover by a friend when he was just 13 years old, according to People, that's certainly not the case. Instead, the grieving mom is trying to keep guns out of kids' reach by promoting a campaign aimed at changing the habits of gun owners to protect kids who may stumble across loaded firearms while playing in their own homes or at a friend's. Instead of calling for a nationwide gun seizure, or even stricter gun safety laws, the ASK Campaign simply encourages parents to inquire about whether unsecured firearms are present where their kids are spending their time.
Melton — who reportedly lost her son in 2011 to a category of tragedy that is all too common in the United States — is a gun owner herself, according to People. Her son, Noah, had been hunting since he was a toddler. But, as the Louisiana mother told the magazine, "it doesn't matter what Noah knew ... it doesn't matter that Noah wouldn’t have done it." What matters is that his 15-year-old friend had four guns in his bedroom that awful night in 2011, and that he fatally shot Noah because he didn't realize the one he was handling was loaded.
So, Melton has joined forces with both the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to get parents everywhere to ask this simple question: "Is there an unlocked gun in your house?"
Because, while unthinkably horrifying, Noah's death happened in a place where he should have been safe is certainly no isolated incident. A review of data conducted by the Associated Press and USA Today concluded accidental gun violence killed a mind-boggling 141 kids in 2015 alone. According to the ASK Campaign — which stands for Asking Saves Kids — 1.7 million children in the United States live in a home with least one firearm, and three-quarters of those between the ages of 4 and 15 know where the guns are located in the home. Finally, 80 percent of the time that a child is accidentally killed by a firearm, the preventable tragedy took place inside a home.
It's what happened to 4-year-old Nelly Zoller, who accidentally shot herself with the loaded gun she discovered in her grandmother's purse while looking for candy there last month. It's how another 4-year-old, Bryson Mees-Hernandez died in January 2016, when he found the finding the .22-caliber Derringer his grandmother stored underneath her bed, according to USA Today. And it's the awful fate that met Markie Barge, who was accidentally shot and killed by his babysitter's 11-year-old son back in 1998, as his mother, Sonya Barge, described in a heartbreaking YouTube video promoting the ASK Campaign.
In the video, Barge shared that she had thought to ask about emergency procedures for what to do if a child got sick when interviewing candidates to watch her children, but it never occurred to her to ask about whether there were unsecured guns in the house. After Markie's death, that changed, she said:
Just ask. Don't feel that you're infringing on someone. Owning a gun is a right, but with a right comes a responsibility, a responsibility of not only the owners to make sure the guns are well-protected, but the responsibility of parents to make sure that our children are in a safe environment, whether it's in a daycare setting, or whether it's in a play setting, or just any setting. Just ask.
Just by asking — Brady Campaign’s Kris Brown recently said, according to People — whether a firearm is in the home could potentially help to change the behaviors of gun owners and save lives.