New Kiosk at Defender Outdoors Reminds Families, Kids to 'Aim for Safety'
The interactive kiosk teaches children what to do if they discover a firearm in a home — all while reinforcing safe-storage techniques for adult gun owners.
Cook Children’s Aim for Safety® program has zeroed in on a new way to educate families on gun safety using an interactive kiosk that teaches children what to do if they discover a firearm in a home — all while reinforcing safe-storage techniques for adult gun owners.
The mobile kiosk, which stands more than 7-feet high and resembles a giant smartphone, rolled out in December at Defender Outdoors, a sports shooting and outdoors equipment retailer in Fort Worth. As part of a first-time collaboration with Cook Children’s, the kiosk was placed near the check-out registers in hopes it attracts the attention of parents and children alike.
“I think this could be a real breakthrough in how we educate our families,” says Dan Guzman, M.D., an emergency room physician who initiated Aim for Safety in 2017 after seeing too many children treated for accidental gun-related injuries at Cook Children’s Medical Center. “It’s a way that’s not in your face — where people may feel more comfortable as opposed to somebody coming up and directly speaking to them about safety (versus standard) practices."
The Aim for Safety educational kiosk — activated by touch — uses advanced technology to engage and teach children as they progress through four levels, stumbling upon unsecured guns hidden in places such as cabinets and drawers while moving through a virtual home. If they find a gun, they must correctly answer questions on how to safely handle the situation in order to progress through the program. Other gun safety-related questions are asked as objects in the rooms are found and touched.
Cook Children’s Aim for Safety program maintains a non-political approach, strictly focusing on educating families about ways to keep everyone safe when guns are in a home, Dr. Guzman says. The program emphasizes three steps: Safe Storage. Safe Children. Safe Play.
Using the kiosk’s touch-screen video program, participants interact and “learn something at the same time,” Dr. Guzman says, adding it’s less intimidating and “there’s no one there to judge you” on whether participants are familiar with standard gun-safety practices in their own homes.
“I think people are free and more open to change, and they’ll listen to the message and learn more about it before they actually make a decision,” Dr. Guzman says. “That’s the approach we want to have… and still deliver a high-quality educational piece that drives home the safety aspects of what we want to do with Aim for Safety.”
Edwina Parker, director of training at Defender Outdoors, says the retailer was “thrilled to be chosen to participate” in Cook Children’s educational kiosk rollout. The company makes gun safety “an integral part of our business, from the sales floor to the range check-in and throughout our training academy,” she says. It also offers private and group lessons with certified instructors on gun safety; handling and shooting; and situational and judgmental training.
“Our partnership with Cook Children’s is very near and dear to our hearts, and we believe education is a fundamental step in firearm safety for adults, as well as children,” Parker says. “We believe our customers will be curious about the kiosk and interested in using it with their children. Our clientele are conscientious gun owners who know and value safety above all, so it’s a natural fit for them.”
“Having an interactive learning tool for children,” she adds, “is a wonderful concept to keep their attention and educate them in a fun way.”
The concept for the Aim for Safety program began with a study led by Dr. Guzman in which Cook Children’s brought parents into a room to observe what their children in an adjacent room (unaware they were being watched) would do when they found a real handgun hidden in a box, backpack or purse. The study’s results showed 90% of the children — even if they had been repeatedly educated on safe gun practices by their parents — looked directly down the barrel of the gun or handled the firearm without telling any adults. Although they were real, the guns couldn’t fire.
The parents in the study who observed their children were shocked when they saw "their kids pick up a gun, pointing it toward their face, put their finger on the trigger — all the things they’d been told not to do,” Dr. Guzman says. They thought their children would "respect the gun" and not do what other kids were doing, “but their kids did the exact same thing,” he says.
Following that study, the Center for Children’s Health at Cook Children’s took the Aim for Safety program to schools and community gatherings to educate families about gun safety, including safe storage. The program also challenges families to have conversations about what to do when children go to other homes, such as a friend’s or relative’s home, where guns might be kept.
Based on what Dr. Guzman has seen, most gun-related injuries are accidental, he says. As of March, 12 children have been treated for gun-related injuries at Cook Children’s this year. Thankfully, none were fatal. Last year, the hospital system reported treating 63 unintentional gun-related injuries, resulting in five deaths.
“Unfortunately, we see children injured by firearms in our community far too often,” says Rick Merrill, president and CEO of Cook Children’s. “We are so thankful to have incredible community partners like Defender Outdoors who recognize the importance of gun safety and want to join forces with us to keep children safe.”
The kiosk is another way the hospital system can further its reach in the community and educate more families about the safe handling and storage of firearms, says Amy Johnson, program coordinator for the Center for Children’s Health (C4CH) and Safe Kids North Texas Coalition led by Cook Children’s.
Johnson says she’s looking forward to the possibilities it offers. With additional Aim for Safety kiosks planned in the near future, it’s possible the booths could be taken into schools for children to use. Also, a link for the program is being developed for use on computers, she says.
“We could bring that link with us into the schools and have everything that’s on the kiosk there on their computers,” she says.
Dana Walraven, manager of community health within the Center for Children’s Health at Cook Children’s, says she’s also excited about the Aim for Safety kiosk and its potential to reach the community through education and conversations.
Safe storage is an important part of all home safety plans, whether you have children or not, she says.
“Safe storage is key for all items that may be considered dangerous to others, such as medication, cleaning products, and, yes, firearms,” Walraven says. “In fact, gun ammunition also should be stored safely and separate from guns.”
Cook Children’s hope is the Aim for Safety educational kiosk “will be a platform for kids to learn alongside their parents and other adult family members,” she adds.
“Creating safe habits early on will help model safer behaviors later in life,” Walraven says. “Children may still make mistakes as they grow, but making conversations about guns more routine may help encourage safer choices.”