Did you know that every month, Hoboken Pre-K students are required to complete an active shooter drill in school to prepare for the possibility of an active shooter situation in our schools? I happened to be at my daughter’s school, Brandt, one day for such a drill. The teachers gathered the children into a corner of the classroom furthest away from the door and asked them to keep quiet. Several moments passed while I sat huddled with the children, wondering what they were thinking about playing this “quiet game” as part of the drill – and something in my heart broke. When did active shooter drills become standard? Why is this something we have accepted as routine for our schools? I couldn’t wrap my mind around it, and it propelled me into action.
I had been following the work of a group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America for some time. I knew it was a grassroots, bipartisan group of concerned citizens that was formed after the tragedy at Sandy Hook to hold legislators accountable. I decided to reach out to them and find out who I could connect with in my area – and was asked by the New Jersey State Coordinator whether I would be willing to stand up and organize for Hudson County in the absence of existing leadership. So, I said yes and jumped in.
I have been asked whether gun safety is really an issue that Hoboken needs to worry about. Working with Hoboken Policy Chief Kenneth Ferrante, I was surprised to learn that, on average, Hoboken issues about 200 gun permits per year to fellow residents. Since connecting Hoboken with Moms Demand Action, I was able to secure a one year supply of gun locks that are now provided free of charge to anyone obtaining a permit.
An important aspect of the work that Moms Demand Action promotes is called the BE SMART campaign. The BE SMART campaign was created to bring together all responsible adults to reduce suicides and the number of unintentional shootings that occur when children get ahold of an unsecured firearm. Every year, nearly 300 children age 17 and under gain access to a gun and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else, and nearly 500 more die by suicide with a gun. Many of these deaths are entirely preventable with responsible gun storage.
We can keep our kids safer by introducing 5 easy steps to parenting and everyday life:
S – Secure guns in homes and vehicles.
M – Model responsible behavior.
A – Ask about unsecured guns in other homes.
R – Recognize the risks of teen suicide.
T – Tell your peers to be SMART.
As parents, we need to ask other parents if they have a gun in their home – and if so, find out if it is properly stored. While it can be uncomfortable at first to get in the habit of asking this question, you can think of it the way you might ask if someone has a food allergy to be aware of, or a pet. “Thanks for inviting Katherine to come over this weekend. Just so I’m aware, does your child have a peanut allergy to be aware of for the sake of sending a snack? Do you have any pets? Do you or your husband own a gun that’s in the apartment?” It can feel awkward at first, but as a parent, it’s worth that feeling of discomfort to be confident in your child’s safety.
Moms Demand Action for Hudson County holds monthly meetings – for more information, check out https://momsdemandaction.org/ or please feel free to reach out to me directly at EmilyHobokenMoms@gmail.com; And for more information about the BE SMART campaign, please check it out at: http://besmartforkids.org/resources/
Emily Jabbour moved to Hoboken nearly 10 years ago at the urging of her then fiancé, now husband, Peter, who was born and raised in New Jersey. Seeking a place to settle down and start a family, Hoboken was the perfect fit. Emily is a Senior Social Science Research Analyst for the Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Emily is a mom of two daughters, and is an active volunteer at the Brandt School. After learning that all Pre-K students in the Hoboken Public School District were required to complete monthly active shooter drills, Emily founded the Hudson County Chapter for the national grassroots organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Since launching this effort, Emily has worked with local law enforcement to distribute gun safety materials across Hudson County and provided a one year supply (on average ~200) of gun locks to the Hoboken Police Department for distribution with every gun permit issued. Both Hoboken and Jersey City also passed proclamations to acknowledge Gun Violence Awareness Day this past June.
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