LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — In one public service announcement, a grandfather says, “She doesn’t know where the gun is.” A granddaughter says, “Yes, I do.”

Similar PSAs from Project ChildSafe speak a clear message about gun safety. The group stresses three phrases: Own it, Respect it, Secure it. If gun owners don’t do that, the unthinkable can happen.

In May, a 2-year-old in Kentwood got his hands on a gun. It went off. He died. In June, 2-year-old in Howell got hold of an unsecured gun. It went off. He died. The Easter family from Jackson experienced the same life-altering tragedy 10 years ago: Their 3-year-old got his father’s gun. It went off. He died.

Mark Easter later bought a gun safe as a way to protect his family.

“When I went to pay for it, I knew that $100 for the safe that it cost me that I could have prevented my son from dying and that will haunt me. That’s a cross I have to bear,” Easter said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children and teens are more likely to die because of guns than from car crashes, drug overdoses and cancer. Experts say the numbers are alarming.

“I would absolutely call it a public health crisis,” Dr. Cynthia Ewell Foster, an associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, said. “Firearms are now the leading cause of death among children in the United States.”  

Statistics published by the Gun Violence Archive show the number of gun-related deaths and injuries of children ages 11 and under increased by nearly 50% from 2018 to 2022. The percentage was even higher when reviewing teens, ages 12 to 17. That number increased by 79%.  

“The evidence is clear that if we are storing guns and firearms in our home and property safely, that we can decrease the number of deaths in kids by 70 to 80%,” Foster said.

Experts from Project ChildSafe agree, saying that hiding a gun does not make a home safe. Instead, they urge parents to think about gun storage before they even purchase a gun.  

“Accidents with firearms can be prevented and it really starts with secure storage,” Bill Bassard of Project ChildSafe said. “Everyone needs to think about randomly doing a gun storage safety check on a regular basis.”

Experts say safe storage of guns and gun violence prevention bills like the ones signed into law this spring by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer can make a significant difference in saving lives.

The new laws also lower the cost of firearm safety devices to ensure owners can safely store their guns, keeping them away from children and out of the hands of criminals.

“Especially people who own many types of firearms, like hunters and target shooters,” Bassard said. “They should look at something that can accommodate all those firearms.”