Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters surprised some of their volunteers this past week with a letter requesting a signature that outlines the organization's Firearms and Weapons Policy as approved by its board of directors.
"We've always had the policy," said Kathleen Murphy, YBBBS chief executive officer. "We've just never put it in writing and asked our volunteers to sign it."
When a match advisor comes to the home and interviews a potential Big Brother or Sister, one of the first questions asked is if there is a gun in the house, and if so, is it safely locked up? The answers are noted on the application form.
"We did not change any of our rules. It's more a legal issue, that people have read the policy and understand it," she said.
The written form states if a Big Brother or Sister owns a firearm, weapon or ammunition, he or she must disclose that to YBBBS staff who then must relate the information to the Littles' parents.
Parents must give permission prior to any activity involving firearms. That has always been the procedure, Murphy said.
If firearms are stored at a Big's home or other location, the Big must ensure the guns are locked and inaccessible whenever a Little is present.
Littles also are required to complete a gun safety course or equivalent if the child and volunteer plan to use firearms.
"We've always said, 'Take your Littles to gun safety class before hunting.' That's the way I grew up; my family hunted," Murphy said. "But as guns become more available, we are finding many people have never been taught how to use a gun."
Kids see them much more as part of the culture, and they don't always understand how to handle weapons safely, she added. Especially when those children come from families without guns.
The local organization did receive a couple of calls about some of the wording, which was initiated at the national level as an update, because the form talked about gun registration, something not required in Arizona.
"We want to make sure the adults are knowledgeable about guns and they are kept safely around children, which means they are locked up," Murphy said. "We forget that children see guns on TV and the movies, and they don't understand; they have no clue.