Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

April 7, 2013

Gun safe mom: Brother's shooting death prompts advocacy

TRAVERSE CITY – The way Missy Carson Smith sees it, advocating for gun safety in the home is not about gun control or gun ownership. It’s about keeping kids safe in their homes and the homes of friends they visit.

It’s about having conversations with spouses and other parents about how guns are stored and made inaccessible to children.

It’s about developing a family gun safety plan and being willing to be identified as a gun-safe mom or dad and talk about it.

Gun safety is dear to Smith’s heart. Her brother, Jeffrey, died at age 12 in 1986 when an emotionally disturbed classmate invited him to his house and then shot him five minutes later with a family firearm. She was 13.

Today, Smith is a mother of four daughters ages 5 to 9, a former elementary teacher, and founder of Gun Safe Mom, an advocacy organization she started in 2009 after learning that her daughter’s first play date had been in a home with at least one unlocked gun in it.

“I felt sick to my stomach,” Smith said. “I had put my daughter’s safety at risk by agreeing to the play date before asking the other child’s parents if guns were in the home.”

She recognized her discomfort and her fear of offending them — a fear she believes is shared by many parents, especially women.

She realized she and husband Jeff, who comes from a long line of hunters, never had talked about the old unloaded family hunting guns in their home and how uncomfortable she felt about them.

They talked. She told them they either needed to buy a gun safe big enough to accommodate a rifle or get rid of them.

She also discussed her concerns with the parents in the home where her kindergartner had played.

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