Former Franklin Square teacher urges parents to Be SMART

Community members learn about basic gun safety precautions


Neighbors learned how they can implement gun safety within their families from Every Town for Gun Safety leaders during the Franklin Square Civic Association meeting last week.

Be SMART is a program within the Every Town for Gun Safety organization that raises awareness about secure gun storage, with the goal of saving children’s lives through education. Janet Goldstein, the local group lead for Long Island Be SMART and a former educator within the Franklin Square school district spoke to the community.

Goldstein worked at Washington Street School for 33 years. Ten years, before she retired in 2017, active shooter drills began. During those drills, she saw fearful children in her classroom.

In the United States, firearms are the leading cause of death for children. Teresa DeAngelis, Be SMART public education lead, spoke to the crowd of neighbors from the Franklin Square region and told them about the public health crisis.

“More than 1,800 children under the age of 18 are killed with guns every year,” said DeAngelis. “And an average of five children every day.”

A majority of gun-related deaths are homicides, amounting to 1,000 children every year, DeAngelis said. Nearly 700 children die by firearm suicide, and 100 are unintentionally shot and killed annually.

“We’re here today to talk about how we can prevent tragedies like that,” she said.

Be SMART believes that secure gun storage is a simple solution to the problem at hand, that would have a substantial impact saving lives.

“It’s not a partisan issue, and everyone should be behind it,” DeAngelis said. “That’s why we’re looking to promote and normalize the conversation about secure gun storage. Through programs like this Be SMART program, research has shown it to be one of the most effective ways to prevent school shootings and protect children.”

Presentations from Be SMART, which take place throughout the country, aim to make conversations around gun safety less taboo and encourage parents to discuss gun safety with their children regardless of whether they have a gun at home.

The acronym for the program, “Be SMART,” is a way parents can address the issue. The acronym stands for: Secure all firearms in a home or vehicle, model responsible behavior around firearms, ask about the presence of unsecured firearms in other homes, recognize the role of firearms in suicide, and tell your peers to “Be SMART.”

In 2019, New York State enacted a safe gun storage law which requires gun owners to lock all guns in an appropriate safe storage depository that is incapable of being unlocked without a key or combination lock, or use of a trigger lock. Secure gun storage is associated with a decreased risk of suicide and unintentional injury among children.

Be SMART team member Ann Koch told the crowd that modeling responsible behavior around guns is always an adult’s responsibility, not a curious child’s responsibility to avoid guns.

“Make it a part of the conversation you have with your children—keep the language simple,” Koch said. “For example, ‘If you see a gun don’t touch it. Tell an adult right away.’”

When her daughters were growing up, Goldstein would ask other parents three simple questions when they would go on play dates: Are there firearms in the home? Are they secured safely? Is the ammunition stored separately?

“It was a very difficult thing to ask, it is awkward and it is uncomfortable,” Goldstein said. “But what I decided to do was I decided to sandwich it in between the ‘Are there any pets in your house? Are there any food allergies?’ It just made it a little bit easier.”

Frank Culmone, treasurer for the Franklin Square Civic Association, emphasized the importance of asking these questions and the differences they can make.

“Would you rather ask the parent where they’re going if there’s firearms in the house and are they locked, or would you rather ask the doctor ‘Is he or she going to live?’” Culmone said.

DeAngelis spoke more on the role of guns in child suicide, as 41 percent of child suicides involve guns.

Signs to look for if someone is experiencing depression, according to Dr. Eve Metzer-Kreif from the American Academy of Pediatrics, include: mood changes, irritability, rage, frequent conflicts, behavioral changes, loss of interest in regular activities, difficulty sleeping or increased sleeping, loss of appetite, failing grades, disinterest in personal hygiene and risky behaviors.

Spreading the message is the biggest goal for the organization, as increased public awareness about basic safety and conversations around the topic can help save lives.