'Is there an unlocked gun where my child is playing?'

'Is there an unlocked gun where my child is playing?' »Play Video
Hallie Clark watches her son, Jonah, play with his toys. She worries what her children would do if they found a real weapon.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It's a simple question, but one parents don't often ask: "Is there an unlocked gun where my child is playing?"

A local group wants you to join their campaign for safe kids around guns. KATU talked to a Northeast Portland mom who asked the question and got a response she'll never forget.

Seven-year-old Jonah loves his toy battles to the death -- "An ax, a sword, and a shield," he says, setting up his knights.

It's all fun and games here at home with his little sister May. But their mom Hallie Clark started worrying about what they would do if they found a real weapon, especially after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

"I just really felt like those were my children, and I just had to do something," said Clark.

Clark joined the "ASK" campaign and decided to start with the neighbor.

"Do you have an unlocked gun in your home?" she asked.

The response was not what she expected, but she's glad she asked.

"She said, 'Yes, we have a gun in our bedroom, and I don't know why he keeps this gun in the house. I can't stand it.' And she reaches out to a high shelf and pulls out a case, and opens it up. It's unlocked, and there's a rifle, with four rounds of ammunition right next to it," Clark said. "My heart just sank and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, my kids have been in this house for three years. I have a boy who likes to climb. This could've been a disaster!'"

The neighbors put the gun in a safe in the basement, and now Clark has a story to tell other parents with advice about how to make that awkward question easier.

"I say, 'I ask everyone this question before I send my child to their home.' So I'm not singling somebody out." Clark said,

She said she feels you can talk to your kids about gun safety all you want, but why not talk to the adults involved, too?

"What am I gonna say if there's an accident, it's his fault? No. It's my fault. for not protecting him."

National Ask Day Rally

Karen Kasmer-Hsue remembers the sound of the shot 25 years ago.

"I had no experience with guns. I froze and she pulled the trigger," she said.

She's talking about the rifle her friend thought was empty but ended up being loaded. She was shot right through her chest.

"I'm still very impacted by this," Kasmer-Hsue said. "I've lived with it now for over 25 years. Every single day it's part of my life. I cannot tell you how important it is to ask if there are guns in the homes where your children are playing."

She, along with other survivors, police, and members of the ASK Campaign are pleading with parents to ask about guns in the home and whether a home has guns and whether they are locked and stored safely.

The message comes on National Ask Day, part of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Eleven-year-old Jasmine was at the Vancouver event to help spread the word, because just a couple years ago she was staring down the barrel of a gun at her friend’s home.

"It kind of made me be a little stunned and scared me a lot … her pointing it at me and shooting me … she said don't worry, it's not loaded but it still kind of scared me," Jasmine told KATU.

Her mother Linda said she always asks parents about guns in the home now.

"The idea that she was in a room with a gun with no adult supervision -- she could be gone right now. My whole world could just implode. I couldn't imagine going through that grief. I don't think any of us can."

Across the park, gun owners held a rally, some disagreeing with the message.

Rick Halle joined members of the Open Carry group in Vancouver and says he leads the Guns Rights Coalition in Washington.

"It's a privacy issue. ... If you're having to ask this you should question whether you're letting your children play there in the first place." Halle said. "That's something I don't want to answer … that's my personal deal. I don't think anybody else needs to know where I keep my firearms."