By Royal Calkins
Many of us dream of that magical day when the people of America wake up to the reality that all those guns aren’t keeping us safe and are, in fact, killing our neighbors and our neighbors’ children in record-setting fashion.
In the meantime, though, there is something that can be done to limit the damage, to prevent some of the carnage. It may not be as dramatic as outlawing campaign contributions by the NRA or a mass weapons buy-back, but it is guaranteed to save lives.
It is something called Be Smart, a public education campaign to actively promote safe gun storage in the home, and it landed in Monterey County this week.
Organized largely by writer and activist Susan Meister and Monterey Peninsula school board member and supervisorial candidate Wendy Root Askew, Be Smart was rolled out at a Monday -evening forum attended by legislative leaders, physicians, police chiefs and others upset by the statistics showing that improperly stored guns are responsible for the deaths of nearly 1,300 children in U.S. homes each year.
“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 percent of gun owners use these devices,” Meister said in a news release. “Experts are confident that educating the public regarding the importance of safe gun storage would save many young lives.”
The advisory panel for the Monterey County Be Smart campaign includes emergency physicians John Ellison and Craig Walls; pediatrician Graciela Wilcox; Natividad Medical Center CEO Gary Gray; Susan Swick, physician-in-chief of the new Ohana Center for Adolescent Mental and Behavioral Health at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula; police chiefs Dave Hober of Monterey, Abdul Pridgen of Seaside, Tina Nieto of Marina and Adele Fresé of Salinas; and Rosemary Soto, manager of Monterey County’s Gang Violence Prevention Initiative.
They attended the opening forum along with state Sen. Bill Monning, Assemblymember Mark Stone, a representative of Rep. Jimmy Panetta, Seaside Mayor Ian Oglesby and others.
Be Smart operates under the umbrella of Everytown USA and Moms Demand Action, national organizations advocating sensible gun laws.
“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,” Meister said. “The objective of this campaign is to insure that we never have such a tragic incident in our own backyard.”
The effort consists mainly of public education efforts, with Be Smart representatives contacting PTAs, civic organizations, faith-based groups, medical societies, school boards, educational institutions, law enforcement, parents, and organizations representing gun owners, among others, to get word to their members about laws requiring safe storage of guns and the dangers of disregarding them.
“This program is a true community-based effort with the sole objective of protecting our children,” Meister said. “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.”
The group seeks volunteers and contributions to help spread its message. Information about joining, founding a chapter or donating can be found at momsdemandaction.org.
Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter or leave a comment below.