Volunteers stand next to traveling gun violence memorial

From left are Suzanne Jackson, Ruth Ann Smith and Dr. Tim Long, members of the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, standing next to a traveling memorial March 19 that commemorates the 46 children whose lives were lost to gun deaths in Missouri in 2020. The memorial was first set up at Mercy South and then moved to Mercy Hospital Washington.

Forty-six Missouri children were killed last year in gun-related homicides.

They are the focus of a multidimensional memorial sponsored by members of the Four Rivers chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America and supported by the Washington Police Department.

“We are not attacking anyone’s Second Amendment rights. I don’t want to see a single child die because of gun violence,” Washington Police Chief Ed Menefee said. “People have the right to own guns but the responsibility to secure them.”

The memorial was temporarily erected on the campus of Mercy Hospital Washington’s Clinic, 901 Patients First Drive. The memorial moved to Mercy Hospital Washington’s main campus Friday and will move to East Central College’s campus in Union Monday and to St. Peters United Church of Christ Church in Washington the following Friday.

Dr. Tim Long, a volunteer with the Moms Demand Action group, said the group hopes the memorial sparks a conversation in the community regarding gun safety.

According to Long, the 46 children who were killed in gun-related homicides were between 6 months and 17 years old. The children are represented in the display by brightly colored age-appropriate T-shirts.

In addition to the 46 children killed, Long said another 54 children died in gun-related incidents, including suicides and unintentional shootings. Firearm deaths are the leading cause of death among children and teens in Missouri, recently surpassing vehicle deaths, according to Moms Demand Action.

Most of these deaths are preventable, Menefee and Long said.

“If you secure a gun, you reduce the chance of unintentional injury, death or even suicide,” Menefee said.

Nationwide, gun safety advocates say there are an estimated 4.5 million children who live in homes with unsecured guns.

Menefee said one of the most common places that guns are stored is in the master bedroom, under the bed, in a drawer or in a closet. He encourages gunowners to store their guns in a separate location from where they store their ammunition.

“I would not recommend keeping a gun loaded at all,” Menefee said.

Long and Menefee said parents who are concerned about unsecured guns in a family member’s home should not be afraid to speak out, no matter how difficult.

They also said that parents should not be afraid to speak to their children about the danger of using a gun as a toy.