The nonprofit that popularized some of America’s most recognizable public service campaigns and slogans, including “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” and “only you can prevent forest fires,” is teaming up with a gun control group to raise awareness of what both describe as a crisis: unintentional deaths or injuries to children caused by guns.
The new campaign, “End Family Fire,” begins on Wednesday and aims to educate the public on the importance of safe firearm storage. “Family fire,” a phrase created for the campaign, refers to shootings that cause injury or death and involve improperly stored or misused guns found in the home.
“We want everyone who is driving down the street, listening to the radio, watching TV, to hear this term, to go to our website and to internalize what family fire is,” said Kris Brown, a president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the gun control organization leading a coalition of groups behind the campaign, which it produced in partnership with the Ad Council, the nonprofit.
As with the Ad Council’s other campaigns, “End Family Fire” will rely on space donated by online, print and broadcast media. Those that have donated services so far include Fox Networks Group, the Meredith Corporation and Condé Nast. The advertisements will start appearing this week on television, in print, on outdoor signage and online.
In one commercial, a father and son are at home preparing for the day ahead when the child, still in his pajamas, asks a series of increasingly probing questions about his father’s gun, revealing that he knows its location and suggesting how he might use it. Other advertisements, for print publications, show children discovering guns in a drawer or a purse.
The date the outreach is beginning, the eighth day of the eighth month of the year, is a nod to a number central to the campaign: Eight children are unintentionally killed or injured by a gun each day, according to the coalition’s analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. That count includes 19-year-olds. Limiting the data to those 18 and younger, the number is closer to six a day.
On May 5, 2001, Josh Adames of Chicago became one of those statistics. That day, Josh, 13, was at a friend’s house when the friend began playing with his father’s handgun. The friend removed the gun’s magazine, but did not realize that a bullet remained in the chamber. He pointed the gun at Josh and fired, striking him fatally in the stomach.
“The fact that he died so young is totally preventable,” said Hector Adames, Josh’s uncle and guardian at the time of his death, who has since worked closely with the Brady campaign.
Mr. Adames, a military veteran, said that while he respected gun rights, gun owners have a responsibility to keep firearms secure.
“I understand that families own guns because they want to protect themselves,” he said. “However, if you have an irresponsible gun owner in your neighborhood, your community isn’t safe.”
About 4.6 million children live in homes where at least one gun is both loaded and unlocked, according to a study published this year in the Journal of Urban Health. And both the Brady Center and the Ad Council want to continue the campaign until that number goes down.
“We focus on issues for the long haul, and when we take one on, our focus is to stay at it until the issue goes away,” said Lisa Sherman, chief executive of the Ad Council, which has promoted firearm safety for almost two decades.
Long before that, the group advanced famous campaigns on other subjects. Since 1944, it has helped promote wildfire safety through the use of Smokey Bear and his famous catchphrase. Starting in 1979, it called for crime prevention with McGruff the Crime Dog. And since 1985, it has promoted seatbelt safety, initially with a campaign featuring two lively crash test dummies.
The “End Family Fire” campaign was created by Droga5, an advertising company founded in 2006, that was also responsible for The New York Times’s ad campaign “The Truth Is Hard.” The gun campaign has received support from a number of other groups, including the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, Bishops Against Gun Violence and Veterans for Gun Reform.