Last Tuesday at the Wooster Kiwanis, I heard Hank Rossiter from Be SMART for Kids present a program that is important at any time of the year. Be SMART for Kids is a nationwide effort to prevent kids from dying from guns.
First of all, let me explain that this is not an anti-gun/legislate guns/take away guns movement. As stated on their webpage BeSMARTforKids.org the "campaign was created to bring together all responsible adults to reduce suicides and the number of unintentional shootings."
Every year approximately 300 children under the age of 17 unintentionally discharges a gun and kills or injures themselves or someone else with a gun. For the family of the child that dies the grief will last a lifetime; for the child who accidentally killed someone the burden of their act will live in them the rest of their life.
We may not be able to keep our children safe from those who intentionally want to harm them. We can do something about these tragic, accidental deaths. Each letter in SMART stands for an action we can take to prevent these accidental gun related deaths. Secure, Model, Ask, Recognize and Tell.
S stands for Secure. Secure unloaded firearms in a locked manner with the ammunition stored separately. Locked could be in a locked gun safe or cabinet. If you have neither of those get a trigger lock.
M stands for Model responsible behavior. Treat firearms as the dangerous item they are. Donít wave them around or mock threaten people with them. Show your children the correct way to respect firearms.
Consider having the entire family take a gun safety course. If your child knows how to unload a firearm, how to properly carry and hold firearms, they will be better off. You never know when your child may come in contact with a firearm. Knowledge is power.
A stands for Ask. Ask the parents/guardians of your childís friends if they have firearms in their house before you let your child visit or stay at their house. If they say yes, then ask about their safety procedures. Are they locked up or have a trigger lock? Is the ammunition stored separately? Explain that you have concerns because you know that there are 300 unintentional shootings by children seventeen and under every year. If their firearms are unsecured explain that you want your child to be their childís friend, but you would feel more comfortable if they saw each other at your house.
R stands for Recognize the risk of teen suicide. September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Far too many teens are suicides every year. All too often their method of suicide is a firearm from their home or that of a family member.
T stands for Tell your peers. Talk to other parents. Do they know that children in the United States are eleven time more likely to die from a gun than children in other countries? Do they know that 70 percent of children know where guns are kept? Do they know that 1.7 million children live in homes with unsecured guns?
There is a lot of talk and media coverage about what can we do to protect children from dying due to gun violence. This is something anyone can do.
Some people will say, well it only occurs about 300 times and there are millions of children. To that I say, yes — but what if one of the 300 was a child you loved? Be SMART.
Bet Theil is a child advocate in Wayne and Holmes counties. She can be contacted at BeverlyVT@aol.com.