Gun-storage forum scheduled Sept. 16

Be Smart, a public education campaign to promote safe gun storage in the home, will be launched locally at an open-to-all forum and attended by Senator Bill Monning, Assemblyman Mark Stone, a representative from Congressman Jimmy Panetta’s office, and members of a blue-ribbon, multi-disciplinary Advisory Panel.  The forum will take place on September 16th at 7 pm at The Press Club in Seaside (1123 Fremont Blvd, at the corner of Williams & Fremont).

Firearms are the second leading cause of preventable death among U.S. children and adolescents. Unintentional shootings with guns found unsecured in the home have long been recognized as a public health issue.  Every year, nearly 1,300 children are killed and another 5,800 are injured by firearms; 350 of these unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. Nearly 600 adolescents use firearms found in the home to commit suicide.  While California has one of the strongest safe gun storage laws in the country, requiring that all guns sold or transferred by a licensed dealer must include a safety device approved by the California Department of Justice, research suggests that only about 10 per cent of gun owners use these devices.  Experts are confident that educating the public regarding the importance of safe gun storage would save many young lives.

A distinguished expert panel advises the Monterey County Be Smart campaign.  It includes emergency physicians John Ellison and Craig Walls, pediatrician Graciela Wilcox, Natividad Hospital CEO Gary Gray, Susan Swick, physician-in-chief of the new Ohana Center for Adolescent Mental and Behavioral Health at CHOMP, police chiefs Dave Hober (Monterey), Abdul Pridgen (Seaside), Tina Nieto (Marina) and Adele Fresé (Salinas), and community leader Rosemary Soto, manager of Monterey County’s Gang Violence Prevention Initiative.

Be Smart operates under the umbrella of Everytown USA and Moms Demand Action, national organizations advocating sensible gun laws with over 6 million supporters in 50 states. Susan Meister, Monterey County Be Smart lead, said, “While as far as we know our county has not had an accidental shooting of a child with a gun found in the home, counties surrounding us have not been so fortunate. The objective of this campaign is to insure that we never have such a tragic incident in our own backyard.”

Meister said that in order for the Be Smart campaign to succeed, the active support of  Parent-Teacher Associations, civic organizations, faith-based groups, medical societies, school boards, educational institutions, law enforcement, parents, and organizations representing gun owners, among others, will be required. “This program is a true community-based effort with the sole objective of protecting our children.  We will be asking the public to join with us and to provide their ideas on how we can most effectively move forward. This is a public health problem that we can actually do something about.”

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