Monday, November 24, 2014

Another child dies due to firearm negligence

Another innocent child has died due to firearm-owner negligence. This story is a repeat of a tragedy for which there is absolutely no excuse. Minors should not have access to firearms and/or ammunition unless they have parental permission and awareness. Below age 14, Utah requires that children be supervised by a responsible adult when handling firearms and/or ammunition.

A loaded gun that is not secure? That's even worse! Free gun locks are available for Pete's sake!

A few people argue that "Locking up your self defense just makes you defenseless which makes having defensive weapons pointless." Those who think they need a gun for self defense (Don't we all?) and who can't figure out how to also keep it safe are not responsible enough to have a gun. They are an "accident" waiting to happen. A self-defense firearms belongs in a proper holster on the defender's person. As long as its there, nobody's ever gonna get hurt. All other firearms should be unloaded and stored so that they are inaccessible to children and other unauthorized persons and separate from ammunition. Having a gun (especially a loaded gun), whether for defense or otherwise, accessible to children whose judgement you can't yet completely trust is dangerous negligence, pure and simple.

News reports tell us that children occasionally need a gun for self defense and therefore need access just as much as an adult does. It is up to the parents to ensure that such access is granted only to youth who are trained in firearm safety and whose judgement can be trusted completely. (For that reason, I encourage parents taking my Utah Concealed Firearm Course to bring their teens to the class at no charge so they can learn about safety and use of deadly force.)

The shooting sports are statistically safer than may other popular sports. Government statistics show that a child is more likely to drown than to die from an "accidental" gunshot. (Accidents are extremely rare. When people get shot, it's almost always somebody was negligent or criminal.)

Every child deserves and needs to know how to react when they encounter a gun without adults around. Even children who don't have them in the home need to know how to be safe around firearms, BB guns, paintball guns, AirSoft guns, etc. Parents without guns presume that their children are safe, but never consider what could happen to their untrained child when he/she is at a friend's home where guns could be present. (About half of the families in your neighborhood have at least one firearm.)

Especially fathers might disagree, but most parents are not the best persons to teach firearm safety. Even parents who shoot often have wrong-headed ideas about the proper handling of firearms and even practice very dangerous gun-handling habits themselves. Parents who are not shooters and those who are anti-gun usually have no idea what a child needs to know and do or how to teach it.

So, for the protection of their own children, every parent should ensure their children get some firearm safety training as soon as they are mature enough to learn -- about age 5-8 for most children -- from a competent firearms trainer -- even a trainer certified by the much-hated NRA. Another good resource is to get their children into a state-managed Hunter Education course -- even if the parents are opposed to hunting or the children will never hunt. They'll not only learn safety, but also wildlife conservation, respect for the outdoors, etc.

Utah law allows, but doesn't require, public schools to provide gun safety training to students. The state has published rules for how this optional training is to be conducted.

I am generally opposed to mandates. However, I think that, because many parents will fail to get their children gun-proofed (trained in safety), every school child should get at least 15-30 minutes of age-appropriate firearm safety training in school from a competent instructor every year from K through grade 12. Our schools are teaching children how to be safe from drugs, malnutrition, strangers, disease, school bus accidents, and even sex. Why not guns?

The NRA's Eddie Eagle program is a good place to start for small children. For older children, the National Shooting Sports Foundation has some excellent training programs suitable for school presentation. You can watch these videos below. These all are politically-neutral and are not designed to indoctrinate children into the shooting sports -- only to teach them to be safe. The anti-gun organizations, on the other hand, do nothing to promote safety. Instead, they chose to fight the organizations that are doing something positive about safety.

Just because child deaths due to "accidental" gunshots are rare doesn't mean we adults should't do more to teach our children how to be safe. This head-in-the-sand attitude that most adults have regarding gun safety is killing our children!

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