I’ve learned that launching a book in the middle of a pandemic isn’t going to be easy. My publishing team is working from home with no access to the things on their office computers. Amazon has put book orders on the back-burner, marketing budgets have shrunk, and forget about doing an in-person book tours.

While these things are happening to book sales, the gun industry is having a record boom. Gun sales are at an all-time high. There’s going to be a lot more new guns out there than new books.

Sadly, that means a lot more unsecured guns we all need to worry about. Children’s’ hospitals are already seeing an increase in injury. In an April blog posted by the Texas Injury Prevention Leadership Collaborative they said, “gun-related injuries have skyrocketed.”

Honestly, my message in my book couldn’t be more timely. When Texas Tech University Press (TTU Press) released their Spring/Summer catalog, I was featured in a two-page layout. I decided to copy and paste it below.

I said in the book, “I respect everybody’s right to own a gun in America. I’m a member of the NRA. I don’t understand why our schools and our churches and our communities don’t require us to teach and learn gun safety. It’s as if handguns are being sold everywhere without safeties. There’s nothing that can be built into a gun to make it safer. There’s only us.” 

Here’s more from the book description in the catalog.

Charting a mother’s journey from grief to gun safety advocacy 

Leesa Ross did not expect to write a book. Neither did she expect the tragedy that her family endured, a horrific and sudden death that led her to write At Close Range. Her debut memoir is the story of what happened after her son Jon died in a freak gun accident at a party. Ross unsparingly shares the complexities of grief as it ripples through the generations of her family, then chronicles how the loss of Jon has sparked a new life for her as a prominent advocate for gun safety. 

Before the accident, Ross never had a motivation to consider the role that guns played in her life. Now, she revisits ways in which guns became a part of everyday life for her three sons and their friends. Gun culture is strong in Texas and North Carolina, places where Ross raised her sons. The privileged circles where the Ross family lives were friendly to guns, but this kind of tragedy was not supposed to happen in a world protected by a comfort- able bubble. Ross’s attitude towards guns is thorny. She has collectors and hunters in her family. To balance her advocacy, she joined both Moms Demand Action and the NRA. 

Through At Close Range, the national conversation about gun control plays out in one family’s catalyzing moment and its aftermath. However, At Close Range ultimately shows one mother’s effort to create meaning from tragedy and find a universally reasonable position and focal point: gun safety and responsible ownership. 

The unthinkable tragedy that changed Leesa Ross’s life upended her priorities and pulled her into the conversation about guns in America. At Close Range spotlights a gun accident of a kind that Ross knows gun owners can do more to prevent. 

The gun conversation is pretty polarized. What do you think gets lost in all the noise? Is there anything about guns you think we can all agree about? 

Training, awareness, and education can save more lives than 

also educate lawmakers about gun safety and encourage state-level participation in and funding for gun safety programs. 

You write about the need for parents to have a follow-up to “the talk” with their kids—one about guns instead of sex. Why is a conversation about guns just as important? What age should this start? What needs to be said? 

Like drunk driving, or unsupervised swimming 
pool use, my message of using commonsense habits
for ownership, as well as protection from unauthorized firearm use, is at the heart of the talk with kids about gun safe gun control. We can agree on safety as essential. 

Many more people die from accidents than from mass shootings. The attention goes to the tragic and widespread attacks. Suicides account for many more gun deaths. Eighty-eight people a day die from gun suicides. Veteran deaths account for 21 of those. 

Lock Arms for Life stresses that this talk can’t start too early — but it must continue into teenaged and young adult years. We recognize that adolescent thinking and behaviors continue into a person’s mid-20s. That age is one where gun ownership is legal, so more gun accidents can occur and can be prevented. 

Some owners talk about storage, but they can bring this talk into a larger community. They are the authorities on responsible use. What needs to be said are the rules of Get ACTIVE. 

We want to meet gun owners where they already are: respecting Second Amendment rights and acknowledging that ownership is less likely to change among current owners. The ownership might be a family tradition, 

All gun violence is tragic, but 
a gun tragedy is often not violent. 
Attacks and assaults are a different
event than accidental deaths and suicides. The effort to control gun ownership is a difficult one. An effort to make guns safer, and their owners more responsible and accountable, will deliver benefits with far less opposition. Both may be required, but safety is the lower-hanging fruit in a complex orchard. Owners can be the greatest force for good, and for love, in a world now at closer range to guns than ever. Which makes it a different situation from reducing deaths from drunk driving or smoking deaths. 

What do you hope people take away from At Close Range?

Owning a gun is more than a right. It’s a responsibility that demands safety awareness. It’s an awareness about love and safety. You can always give one, but never be completely certain about the other. 

I want the book to influence everyday firearm storage norms. By showing the advocacy through the story of a family, we want to influence families to adopt safer ownership and practices. I want readers to see that even a tragic death from a gun accident can propel positive advocacy — and that taking action is the best way to make a preventable death count for something that can save the lives of others. 

I hope that firearm storage talks will become normal among families and friends and owners of guns. The lessons about responsible ownership should be taught in schools, in churches, and at dinner tables. I hope that accountability about ownership will be as essential as ammunition for a weapon. Guns protect lives, and so does gun safety. Owning a handgun for protection means that guns are more likely to be stored loaded, so safer practices are crucial to unintended use and accidental deaths. 

We can leave a legacy to our younger generations with safety practices that are directly wired into gun ownership. We can also prevent suicides by securing guns, so that our efforts contribute to better mental health.