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Be SMART about gun safety to help stop school shootings

Most school shooters get their guns from their home or the homes of friends or family. The SMART program on how to safely store guns could help save lives.

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Supporters of gun control and firearm safety protest outside the Supreme Court in 2019 during oral arguments in gun rights case.
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The school shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan is a tragedy that cost four young people their lives and made survivors of countless others. Yet it is a story that plays by the school violence playbook. Approximately 80% of school shooters get their guns from their homes or the homes of friends or family. The shooter at Oxford High obtained his weapon from his home.

We can feel helpless, but we are not. We can advocate for and educate about the safe storage of firearms. Education programs like Moms Demand Action’s Be SMART program (www.besmartforkids.org) educate on the specifics of secure firearm storage. Becoming familiar with this simple program can save lives.

The S in Be SMART stands for Secure Guns in Your Home and Vehicle. If you have children, you know they are likely to find anything and everything that isn’t securely stored.

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The M stands for Model Responsible Behavior Around Guns. Talk to your children about firearms, even if you don’t own one. This should be part of safety conversations, just like “Stranger Danger,” drugs and alcohol.

A stands for Ask About Firearms in Other People’s Homes. Don’t make assumptions. Simply ask: “If you have firearms, can you tell me if they are securely stored?” The Be SMART website gives tips on these conversations.

The R stands for Recognize the Role Guns Play in Suicide. Every 23 minutes, someone in Illinois dies by suicide by gun. Securing guns and preventing access during a crisis can save lives.

And lastly, the T stands for Tell Your Peers to Be SMART. As a former teacher and now a mom of three, I am determined to see change. I’m talking to others about secure storage. I encourage you to do the same.

Megan Kivarkis, Glenview

Bob Dole’s cancer-fighting legacy

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, 98, died last weekend from advanced lung cancer. But most obituaries overlooked that 30 years ago Dole made breakthroughs in prostate cancer, the second most deadly cancer in American men.

Dr. William Catalona, a pioneering urologist at Northwestern University, who was a friend of Dole’s, told me the senator “was the first celebrity to go public about his prostate cancer and discuss the concerns men have about possible incontinence and erectile dysfunction with surgery.”

Dole also was the first viable candidate with acknowledged cancer to run for the presidency.

The late TV interviewer Larry King got Dole to open up about his prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction that resulted in Dole becoming a spokesman for Viagra. This conversation made possible open discussion about impotence and those famous “little blue pills.”

Dole served as honorary co-chairman of Chicago-based US TOO, a national support group for prostate-cancer survivors. He even sponsored prostate-cancer screenings at the Kansas State Fair and the 1992 Republican Convention in Houston.

And improbably, Dole came to endorse Viagra as a treatment for his surgical side effects, which led to some good-natured kidding.

Breakthroughs come in many forms.

Howard Wolinsky, Flossmoor