Kayla Austin, 19, is a gun control activist who is the founder and CEO of My Gun’s Been Moved, a smart device that helps parents track, monitor and place safeguards on their personal firearms at home, in order to reduce gun violence—specifically for children. The Howard University student invented the device at just 12 years old, driven by a personal tragedy that struck her family when she was younger, and she continues to lead the charge for at-home gun regulation and safety.
For Kayla, the issue of at-home gun control strikes a personal chord. “I had a family member who, when she was just 4 years old, shot herself with her grandfather’s gun,” says Kayla. While the accident was not fatal, the dangerous incident could have been a lot worse. “Hearing her story made me realize just how common these instances are, and it really made me want to find my own solution,” she says.
Through her company, Kayla is looking to advocate for a branch of gun control and activism that doesn’t typically make it into the main discourse. “A lot of times you hear about mass shootings or gang violence so I feel that it’s my job to add accidental shootings and shootings involving children and teens in the home to that conversation,” says the activist. “[That] is my ultimate goal.”
Kayla first thought of her idea when she was 12 years old, while doing a project at a community-based program. “I chose to study gun violence, specifically against youth, because I felt like that wasn’t being talked about enough,” says Kayla. “I came up with an invention in the form of a gun safety device. It’s basically a pad that can be placed anywhere that gives parents access to monitor their weapon through their phone.”
If a child moves the gun from the pad, an alarm goes off and the app notifies the parents that their gun was moved. “From there, they can either call an emergency contact or local law enforcement if they’re not able to intervene in time themselves,” says Kayla.
My Gun’s Been Moved has helped Kayla establish herself as a leader in the gun control community, and despite the daily challenges of balancing the life of being a CEO and being a full-time college student, Kayla “wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The challenges started for Kayla well before college, partially due to her young age at the time that she came up with the idea. “I was so young, so a lot of people were dismissive of my ideas,” she says. “I would say that’s been the hardest part of my journey. But I promised myself that I would stick it through and kind of build my network throughout the years.”
Kayla’s perseverance paid off, and she secured a $25,000 dollar investment from the Pharrell Williams-led initiative, Black Ambition. “That kind of helped me close the gap,” says the CEO. “I was able to finally get the mentorship that I needed.”
Beyond Kayla’s role as an activist, she also hopes that her story can inspire other young entrepreneurs to see their ideas through.
“I hope that I can just inspire other young girls, or young people around the country, if you have an idea, stick with it,” says Kayla. “Even if people don’t see your vision, if they don’t see what you’re trying to do [or] the impact of what you know your work will do, just stick with it and they’ll come on eventually.”
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