He was simply picking Brooklynn up from the play date because he didn’t want her to walk home alone, crossing a few tricky streets.
He tried to help before paramedics arrived, but Brooklynn was in critical condition. She later died at the hospital.
“You can’t stop time, you can’t catch your breath, you can’t go back fast enough,” Darchel Mohler said, recalling the moment she wiped away the blood streaming from Brooklynn’s eyes before she let her go. “It’s complete and total chaos, inertia, obliteration.”
Mohler isn’t the same person she was before that gunshot, and she’s still trying to find her new normal. In the process, she’s created Justice for Brooklynn, a foundation dedicated to helping other parents avoid this fate.
It isn’t an accident, said Mohler, who lost her sister in a car accident. She says that was unavoidable. This, however, could have been prevented.
“There is loss, but this is not acceptable — this is too preventable to be acceptable,” Mohler said.
One in three homes with children have guns, and 75 percent of children ages 5 to 14 know where the firearms are stored, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Between 2001 and 2010, 7,700 children under age 14 suffered accidental firearm injuries.
The simplest way to help prevent this: Ask if there are firearms in the home before dropping off a child for a play date, said Washington-based Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Gross said there are ways to bring up the topic without offending the person hosting the play date, regardless of whether or not that person is a gun owner.
“It’s important to make sure that the question comes from where it should, from a place of concern about your child’s safety,” Gross said. “Don’t bring politics into the conversation, ask it along with the other questions that responsible parents ask, and take any emotion or judgment out of the question.”
Asking about firearms should be every bit as straightforward as asking about a swimming pool or about the food being served.
“It’s just one of those questions and one that, as it turns out, genuinely has the potential to save a life,” Gross said.
But despite knowing this reality, it’s still a difficult question for some parents to ask — and one that some don’t even think they need to ask.
When she was 13, Missy Smith’s 12-year-old brother was shot and killed by a classmate during a play date in a Detroit suburb.
So when the Traverse City, Mich., woman gave birth to two girls, she was relieved.
“I was thankful that they were girls, that we were off the hook,” Smith said, assuming that her daughters and their friends wouldn’t play with guns.
Smith dropped her daughter, who was in kindergarten, off at her first play date, never thinking to ask about firearms.
Two weeks later, she overheard her daughter’s new friend talking about her parent’s gun.
“I was blindsided,” said Smith, who created Gun Safe Mom to help other parents talk about the issue.
Instead of simply asking if there’s a firearm in the home, Smith said, it’s important to think about your comfort level with guns.
There are nine ways a firearm can be stored. If a home has one, Smith recommended asking how it’s stored. Depending on the age of your child, you may have to consider if it’s safe enough.
“In my brother’s case, it was locked, but the boy had the access and the knowledge to unlock the safety and the ammunition,” Smith said.
Fingerprint technology can help keep a gun out of the hands of children.
The firearm question is one that Smith always asks before play dates now. She said that most of the people she asks are grateful for the question.