Most people in the Park Hill neighborhood know Luther Brown and his passion for gun safety. He started a nonprofit organization, Board 4 Change Inc., in 2001 with the idea of promoting gun safety.
That was before gun-related accidents became the third-largest cause of death for children in America, according to a study based on 2014 numbers. And it was before Brown’s 8-year-old grandson, Andre, was killed in a gun accident while at a babysitter’s in 2016.
Today, Brown’s organization operates a gun-safety program known as Little Hands Little Feet, which gives away gun locks and holds educational programs to teach kids and parents about gun safety.
“When children started dying from accidental shootings, we looked at that nationally. Everyone started thinking and paying attention,” he says. “And we were giving away more gun locks.”
In fact, Brown remembers when he had to beg companies and donors for gun locks. Last year, with the help of a city grant, Brown’s organization gave away 1,200 gun locks all over Kentucky.
Brown attends community events and goes to area churches, anywhere he can get out his message. He organizes classes in which parents and children can learn important safety principles. He brings in law enforcement officers and emergency medical personnel to talk with neighborhood kids ages 6-12.
“Our work is to bring about gun safety awareness, and why you should store your guns safely in your home,” he says. “Kids have been affected so many different ways. At the age of 6, you’re old enough to understand. We say to stop, back away from the gun and tell an adult. We want them to know how serious the injuries are that come from handling or touching a firearm that is unsecured or found in a home just laying around.”
Brown says the kids, like the ones attending a September meeting at Neighborhood Place on Algonquin Parkway, are eager to learn about gun safety. He says too many have first-hand knowledge of gun injuries.
“Our number one message is we want to let them know we love them,” he says. “We build respect and let them know there is someone listening to their pain, that someone cares. We don’t want to lose more of our children. We can’t do too much about what has already happened to them, but we can repair some of the brokenness.”
In addition to the gun-lock program and the educational classes, Brown is working with local politicians on getting legislation passed that would hold adult gun owners accountable when a child is injured by a firearm. He said that when gun accidents occur, too often it is considered simply an accident, and those who leave guns in reach of children aren’t punished.
“We’re not talking about gun violence or gun control,” he says. “It’s gun safety. There can be on argument when it comes to the safety of our children.”