Moms Demand Action speak about ‘SMART’ gun ownership

It’s hard not to be horrified that mass shootings are becoming more frequent in this country. For a group of local residents teaching others about ways to reduce child gun deaths has become a mission.

For Elizabeth Harris, the group leader of the local Moms Demand Action, the statistics about gun deaths were the impetus for her to become part of the gun safety conversation.

“I was quite frankly horrified to learn that 98 Americans die every day from gun violence in our country,” she said. “Moms Demand Action is all about common sense safety measures.”

Two members of the Central Susquehanna Valley chapter of the group spoke at a forum at Lycoming College Wednesday night.

Mary Markle, a group leader for the Be SMART team with the chapter and a mother of five children, said she was drawn to that team for a couple of reasons.

“I was definitely drawn by the simplicity of the message,” she said, adding that she also was attracted to that team because it was the most non-political.

“For me it’s just common ground, it speaks to non-gun owners, gun owners, parents, anyone who is a caregiver for a child, or quite simply has a child in their life,” she said.

“Be SMART was developed by Moms Demand Action to get the conversation going specifically speaking to gun safety and children,” Markle said.

According to the group, a child is defined as anyone 17 years and under. In that age group, about 300 gain access to a gun and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else.

The focus of the group is on “preventing these tragedies from happening.”

Markle, along with Marilyn Newman, detailed what each letter of the acronym means.

“S” speaks to securing all guns in homes and vehicles. The two urged those in attendance to keep guns locked and cautioned against just finding a place to hide the guns.

“Hiding is not securing,” Newman said.

The “M” in the acronym stands for modelling responsible behavior around guns. This could be keeping a gun pointed in a safe direction and treating every gun as if it is loaded. It also means being aware what’s beyond your target when shooting and not relying on the gun’s safety.

Markle said she particularly liked the Ask portion which is what the “A” stands for.

“The Ask portion of the program speaks to asking others about guns in their homes,” she said.

She noted that she had heard a mom speak at the Million Mom March, which was held shortly after the mass shooting at Columbine, who had lost her son to an unintentional shooting.

“She (the woman at the rally) closed by saying that as difficult as it is to have these conversations, it’s more difficult to plan your child’s funeral. Whether you’re a parent or not you hear that and it has stayed with me all this time,” Markle shared.

Markle stressed that it’s important to ask the parents of children yours interact with about the presence of unsecured guns in their homes.

“I always like to say that these are conversations that I believe we would have if we were getting a pet, if we were putting a trampoline in our backyard, if we were putting a pool in our backyard. The responsibility of those I would say is, at the very least, equal to having a weapon in your home. I just feel strongly that this is the same type of conversation that should be applied to that decision. What precautions will you take to safeguard your children,” she said.

Citing the statistic that nearly 600 or more children die by suicide with a gun each year, Markle noted that it has been proven that the presence and availability of a gun in the home is more significant than mental health issues in determining suicide with a gun.

The women urged parents to be aware of or “R”ecognizing changes in behavior of your child, noting that suicide in teens is an impulsive decision and if the means are not available, then the suicide could be prevented.

“Talk, talk, talk,” Markle said, finishing with the T part of the acronym. “Tell your peers to be SMART.”

Both women stressed that the Moms Demand Action are not seeking to take guns from people, but encouraged people to “Be SMART.”

The local chapter of Moms Demand Action, Williamsport for Gun Sense meets at 6:30 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month at the James V. Brown Library. For more information, email them at: Williamsportforgunsense@gmail.com