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ASK about guns in homes

| Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Starting next year, two foundations hope to curb violence by encouraging parents to ask if there are guns at the homes where their children play and if they are stored safely.

“We're not getting into the whole gun debate,” said Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation. “We're not asking for any policy about guns. We're not asking people to give up guns.

“We're just asking parents to ask questions to protect their children.”

The Pittsburgh Foundation is giving $50,000 and the Falk Foundation, $150,000, to The Center to Prevent Youth Violence, a nonprofit group in New York City. The money will help kickstart the Asking Saves Kids, or ASK, Campaign, next spring, said Jennie Lintz, deputy director of the center. Similar programs took place in Rockford, Ill., and Portland, Ore.

The center plans to work with community groups and pediatricians and use the media to raise awareness with parents of children ages 5 to 14.

“We ask parents to ask if there's a gun where their child plays just like they would ask other health and safety-related questions like who would be supervising them, if the child has any allergies, what would they be watching on television,” Lintz said.

“What parents do with that information is really up to them.”

Lintz said a poll found just 5 million parents were asking the question when the center launched a national publicity campaign in 2000.

The number swelled to 19 million in 2006.

The National Rifle Association did not respond to requests for an interview.

Oliphant said encouraging parents to be curious motivates them to re-evaluate gun safety in their own house: whether guns are stored in a locked place away from children, whether they are unloaded and whether ammunition is stored separately.

Twenty-one percent of adults in Allegheny County have firearms around the house, according to a 2002 poll by the county health department, but state and national figures are higher.

The Rev. Glenn G. Grayson, executive director of The Center that CARES, an anti-violence organization in the Hill District, said the program is an encouraging step.

“It's good to see that the foundation and the other foundation take an interest in gun violence because it's affecting everyone, not just the African-American community,” Grayson said.

His son, Jeron, a student at Hampton University in Virginia, was killed in 2010 at a party near California University of Pennsylvania when a man shot through a door.

“No one is exempt from a bullet because a bullet doesn't have a name on it.”

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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