The Center to Prevent Youth Violence (CPYV), originally known as PAX, is a non-profit organization co-founded in 1998 by Daniel Gross and Talmage Cooley, with the mission of ending the crisis of gun violence in America by repositioning the issue as a common sense matter of public health and safety, rather than the seemingly intractable political wedge issue it had become.[1] By 2002, PAX had become the largest non-lobbying organization working on gun violence prevention as a result of the success and rapid expansion of its ASK and SPEAK UP campaigns, which were designed to have immediate impact on the frequency of gun deaths and injuries, while also shifting the national dialogue around guns to a prevention-driven, public health and safety orientation.

In 2011, PAX officially changed its name to The Center to Prevent Youth Violence[7] to better reflect the youth and family focus of its prevention driven campaigns. In 2012 the organization was merged with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and Daniel Gross became President of the Brady Campaign. Talmage Cooley resigned as co-CEO of The Center to Prevent Youth Violence in 2004 but remained on the organization's Board of Trustees until its merger with the Brady Center in 2012.[2]

Since inception, CPYV has created groundbreaking public health and safety campaigns that promote the simple steps parents, kids and others can take to prevent violence affecting youth,[3] including gang-related and other urban violence; school shootings; suicides, accidents and homicides involving firearms which claim the lives of eight children and teens every day.[4]

Parent-focused Programs[]

CPYV has created two parent-focused problems aimed at educating parents about simple steps they can take to reduce the risk of violence affecting their children.


The ASK Campaign was launched by the gun violence prevention organization PAX[5] (renamed The Center to Prevent Youth Violence in 2011 and merged with the Brady Campaign in 2012). The ASK campaign was originally developed by Talmage Cooley and Daniel Gross, co-founders of PAX/The Center to Prevent Youth Violence, and launched in 2000 in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). It is now managed by The Brady Campaign. The campaign raises awareness among parents about the importance of asking if there are guns where their children play, to ensure guns stay out of kids’ hands. The program also emphasizes the importance of medical and health professionals to talk to parents and patients about guns in the home, gun safety and safe storage.

In partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the ASK Campaign's goal is to encourage parents to ask if there are guns where their children play (i.e. the homes of friends and relatives).[6] The ASK Campaign includes television and radio public service announcements and collateral materials that inform parents and inspire them to ask about the presence of firearms in the homes where their children play.[7] If the answer is yes, then parents are encouraged to make sure they are stored securely in a place that is inaccessible to children.[8] Community-based ASK Campaigns have been implemented in Rockford, IL[9] and in Portland, OR.[10]

The ASK Campaign is also observed nationally on National ASK Day, June 21 of each year.[11][12] In 2011 a major ASK Day event was held in Miami, Florida in response to the recently passed ban on physicians asking their patients about the presence firearms in the home.[13] The event encouraged parents to ask themselves, since physicians were restricted in their ability to do so. The ban has since been blocked.[14]

By 2017, the ASK and SPEAK UP campaigns had been active for over 17 years, and remain the leading public health and safety campaigns dedicated to gun violence prevention in the US, with over 19 million Americans signing the ASK Pledge and over 31 million parents reporting that they ask their neighbors about guns where their kids play.[9]

GAO Report Praising ASK Campaign Effectiveness 2017[]

In October 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the effectiveness of firearm storage awareness programs, ultimately finding the “ASK” program to be the only national safe storage program that has been independently evaluated and found to be effective. The report, entitled “Personal Firearms: Programs that Promote Safe Storage and Research on their Effectiveness,” was prepared over a two-year period in response to a request by the Congressional HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) Committee.[15]

The report also points out that funding for gun violence prevention research is disproportionately low relative to health issues with comparative mortality rates. According to the report, government-funded research for gun violence is .7 percent of that for sepsis, which has a comparable mortality rate, and the publication volume for studies on firearm-related deaths is about four percent of that for sepsis.[15]

The report evaluated 16 programs, both regional and national, that are aimed at spreading awareness of the importance of safe storage of firearms. The ASK campaign was found to be the only national program that effectively promotes awareness of safe storage through its parent-centered program that urges caregivers and parents to ask if there are guns safely stored in the homes where their children play. The NRA's Eddie Eagle program, aimed directly at young children, was found to have no effect on participating children's behavior around guns.[15]

Jim Accomando, president of National PTA, said “Child and school safety starts at home. When families store their guns responsibly, they’re much less likely to end up in schools and tragedies are less likely to occur. It is critical that guns are kept safely away from kids and that we, as parents, ask if there are guns in the homes where our children play. National PTA is proud to support the ASK campaign to help prevent gun-related incidents and keep children safe. The association is also committed to advocating for legislation and appropriations to research the causes and effects of gun violence. In order to fully understand and address this epidemic gripping our nation, we need to first understand the causal relationships and the effects such violence has on our communities.”[15]

HELP Senate Committee leaders lauded the report's findings.[15]

“There is so much we can and absolutely should be doing to address gun violence—but as this report makes clear, one simple, critical step is to gain a better understanding of how to encourage the safe storage of guns,” said Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).“I’m hopeful that every Senator will take a close look at the findings in this nonpartisan report, and join families nationwide in pushing for stronger investments in gun violence research.”[16]

"If we want to stop this tragic scourge of gun violence, we need better information about what is causing it and what can be done to prevent it,” said Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). “We need to study gun violence like the public health crisis that it is. This new GAO report outlines how important it is to give the medical, scientific, and public health community the resources they need and support a federal research agenda into gun violence. I thank the Brady campaign for their leadership on this issue and look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make critical investments in protecting lives."[16]

Suicide-Proof Your Home[]

The Suicide-Proofing Initiative was launched in September 2011 in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Health under a youth suicide prevention grant from SAMHSA.[17] This program is based on research conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, which illustrates that preventing youth access to lethal means of suicide, such as firearms, reduces the likelihood that a young person will die from suicide.[18] The Suicide-Proofing Initiative includes TV and radio public service announcements, mass awareness materials, and a website, all of which are aimed at educating parents of adolescents and teens about simple steps they can take around their homes to reduce the risk of a suicide occurring.[19]

Youth-focused Programs[]

CPYV believes that young people have the power to prevent violence. The SPEAK UP campaign and hotline give youth the tools and motivation to help keep their communities safe.

Speak Up[]

The Speak Up Campaign (and the 1-866-SPEAKUP hotline) was launched in 2002 by PAX[5] (renamed The Center to Prevent Youth Violence in 2011 and merged with the Brady Campaign in 2012) based on the insight that in the vast majority of incidences of youth violence, young people who are not involved in the violence know what is going to happen before it does.[20] Speak Up targets youth with a message encouraging them to “speak up” about threats of violence they hear about, either by telling an adult who can help or by calling 1-866-SPEAK-UP, an anonymous, national hotline maintained by CPYV. Speak Up programs are currently being implemented in New York City;[21][22] Minneapolis;[23] Cumberland County, NC;[24] Lindale, TX; Berkeley, CA;[25] and Waldron, AR.


1-866-SPEAK-UP was a national hotline for students to anonymously report threats of violence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The hotline was operated in accordance with a rigid protocol developed in collaboration with national education and law enforcement authorities. Trained counselors collected information from callers and then immediately reported the threat to appropriate school and law enforcement officials. The counselors also have access to an extensive database of local, city, and state referral sources, which they can offer callers who call with issues unrelated to youth violence. The Speak Up program, including its 1-866-SpeakUp referral line, will be discontinued as of December 31, 2018.

If you would like to explore programs related to school safety, the National PTA School Safety portal provides resources from Sandy Hook Promise, the National Safety Council, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), and the National Association of School Psychologists.[26]


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