TRENTON, March 9, 2023 — The New Jersey School Boards Association has released a report,  Firearms Safety: Process, Programs and Practices for Safety in School, Home and Community, which focuses on how to keep children safe from firearms.

Recognizing that firearms injuries are the leading cause of death among America’s children and adolescents today, NJSBA believes it is imperative that local boards of education work with parents, students and the community at large to promote firearm safety, prevent gun violence and address its physical and emotional toll on our children.

In December 2022, NJSBA President Irene LeFebvre and Executive Director Dr. Timothy J. Purnell appointed a task force of local board of education members and experts from law enforcement and traumatic loss and counseling to explore strategies school districts may consider for implementation in their communities. The effort is part of NJSBA’s long history of research on the health and safety of New Jersey’s public school students.

In its work, the Task Force reviewed data and research on firearm deaths and injuries; the impact of children’s exposure to violence; effective strategies to protect children from accidental injury; safe gun storage, handling and use; firearm acquisition and licensing; and school- and community-based partnerships that address students’ mental and emotional health, and help them overcome trauma and defuse conflict.

“NJSBA produced studies in the past that provided valuable information on school security staffing and protocols,” LeFebvre said.  “However, we recognized the need to further protect the children in our communities and offer local boards of education recommendations and suggested actions that reflect strategies endorsed by child welfare organizations, gun-owner groups, the medical community, experts in public health, education organizations and other advocates.”

“The Task Force believes that this report can serve as the center of an information effort at the state and community levels to promote firearm safety, reduce gun violence and address its impact on children,” said Raymond R. Wiss, NJSBA president emeritus and chair of the Task Force.

Sample of Findings Based on its research, the Task Force found that:

  • In 2020, firearm-related injuries surpassed automobile accidents to become the leading cause of death among children and adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • 3,597 children died by gunfire in 2021, according to provisional statistics from the CDC, reported in The New York Times.
  • During the same period, 1,078 children died by suicide, nearly 30%— of child gun deaths, according to statistics from Everytown for Gun Safety, a nationwide organization that promotes firearms safety, cited by The New York Times.
  • An estimated 4.6 million American children live in households with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm, reports a 2022 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • Between 2015 and 2020, there were at least 2,070 unintentional shootings by children that resulted in 765 deaths and 1,366 nonfatal injuries, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.
  • In 2020 alone, at least 125 children ages 5 and under shot themselves or someone else.

Focus of recommendations To address its findings, the Task Force identified programs in place in New Jersey public schools and reviewed data, reports and literature in the areas specified by the Task Force charge, including the impact of gun violence on children and adolescents; practices to promote firearm safety, including safe firearm storage; violence prevention strategies; trauma and mental health, and resources available from nationwide organizations.

The task force urged boards of education to review the report and determine those strategies that will best enhance safety in their communities.

The NJSBA Firearms Safety Task Force Report: Process, Programs and Practices for Safety in School, Home and Community can be accessed at Main-Report-Feb28.pdf (