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U.S. Department of Education Issues New Resource for School Administrators on Importance of Safe Firearm Storage

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Safe storage of firearms is an important prevention tool that can be used to help keep schools, homes, and communities safe from gun violence. To build further awareness of this important strategy, today the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Education (Department), is releasing a new resource that schools can use to communicate with parents and families about the importance of safe firearm storage, and encourage more people to take preventive action by safely storing firearms. Additionally, First Lady Jill Biden, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, and White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention Director Stef Feldman will hold a town hall with school principals today at the White House to elevate the importance of safe firearms storage and emphasize the role that principals and education leaders can play in helping prevent gun violence.

“Gun-related injuries and deaths are a heartbreaking public health crisis, and it will take action from all of us to better protect our children,” said Secretary Cardona. “We know that keeping guns locked and securely stored is one of the most effective tools we have for keeping kids safe and preventing senseless tragedies. The resources released today by the Biden-Harris Administration will empower principals, school officials, and families to better address the issue of safe firearm storage in our communities as we continue to press Congress for greater action on gun violence.”

Nearly 20 percent of childhood deaths are caused by firearms, and many deaths can be prevented through safe storage of firearms. The resource released today to principals and district leaders can be used to communicate with parents, families, and communities on the importance of safe firearm storage. The resource is accompanied by a letter from Secretary Cardona encouraging principals to take action. By increasing awareness around safe firearm storage, we can help to reduce the risk that weapons get into the wrong hands and save families and communities from what can tragically result when this happens.

While safe firearm storage is an important factor in preventing death and injury from gun violence, direct and indirect exposure to guns can negatively affect the mental health and well-being of students. The Biden-Harris Administration, through the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), and other grant programs, has provided unprecedented funding to establish safe, healthy, and supportive learning opportunities and environments; to increase access to school-based mental health services; and to strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-need communities. These historic investments provide greater access to the preventative supports that help keep students safe and healthy. Building on this foundation, earlier this month, the Department additionally announced $6.4 million in new Project Prevent awards to implement community- and school-based strategies to prevent and mitigate the impacts of community violence, and to address the impacts of exposure to community violence. These investments help advance the President’s Mental Health Strategy, which directly implements his Unity Agenda priority to tackle the mental health crisis in our school communities. In addition, funding for mental health complements the Administration’s continued focus on its Raise the Bar: Lead the World initiative.

Guidance on the importance of proper firearm storage comes on the heels of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announcing approximately $50 million in new grants, made possible by BSCA, for states to implement, enhance, and expand the use of school-based health services through Medicaid. The grants will provide up to $2.5 million each to as many as 20 states to expand crucial access to mental health and physical health services at schools under the Medicaid program. Secretary Cardona joined U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in issuing a letter this week to states encouraging them to make use of this new funding to ensure that as many schools as possible are providing mental and physical health services at schools and extending the reach of these services to impact more children. The grants hold promise for connecting millions more American children to critical health care services, particularly for mental health.

The work on safe storage of firearms is part of a broader Administration-wide effort led by the newly established White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which highlights the importance of this key preventative strategy in communities across the country. This work builds on crucial actions taken by the President and this Administration in addressing the epidemic of gun violence through BSCA, including funding to help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals a court has determined to be a significant danger to themselves or others; enhanced background checks for buyers under 21; and new funding for proven, community-based violence prevention initiatives.

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