What Does Gun Safety Really Mean?

It’s been a bit more than twenty years since the debate over guns really heated up.  Much of the noise was due to the 1994 Clinton gun bills which the NRA and other gun-owning organizations vigorously opposed, but it also reflected a genuine concern that gun crimes and gun violence were out of control.  And even though crime and gun violence rates then dropped by nearly 50% before the 21st Millennia and continue at historic lows, the argument over what I call the social utility of guns continues to grow.

The social utility of guns from a negative and a positive can be summarized as follows.  On the one hand, public health researchers and gun-control advocates believe that the risks of gun ownership outweigh the gains; i.e., if you own or carry a gun sooner or later someone will get shot and the victim won’t be that bad guy trying to break down your back door.  On the other hand we have the gun makers and gun-owning organizations like the NRA who just as firmly believe that virtually all gun violence is caused by bad guys with guns, and that the level of violent crime would be much higher if we didn’t have the 2nd Amendment right to own or carry a gun.

safe                I happen to believe that the public health research on gun risk is valid.  I also happen to believe that most people who keep a gun around to protect themselves would have absolutely no idea what to do if they found themselves in a position where their physical security depended on their ability to use a gun.  It also doesn’t matter what I happen to believe. We accept all kinds of risks in our lives – smoking, obesity, drinking – for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with our ability or willingness to deal with the risk itself.  So who am I to say that one person’s perception of risk shouldn’t be another person’s equally valid perception of gain?

The fact is that virtually every single gun that is used in an actual or threatened shooting of another human being started out as a legal gun.  And while the recent video about gun histories posted by States United was a clever way to link guns with their use in murders and assaults, the history of every single gun in that faux gun shop started off in the same, legal way. Now I can’t imagine that there’s one law-abiding gun owner out there who consciously would want one of his guns to be used to injure or kill someone else.  Thanks to the NICS, I also don’t think that anything but a small percentage of guns are initially sold to someone who doesn’t legally deserve to own a gun.  But if 11,000 guns are used in homicides, 140,000 in assaults and another 120,000 in robberies, then we can say with some degree of assurance that every year at least 270,000 guns fall into the wrong hands.

It’s all well and good to talk about extending background checks on the one hand, or telling kids to STOP – don’t touch – leave the area – tell an adult- on the other.  But I got news for you.  If 200,000 guns are stolen every year, and that’s a minimum figure, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out how easy it is for guns to get into the ‘wrong’ hands. And if anyone out there believes that the five-dollar cable locks you can pick up at your local police station courtesy of the NSSF is going to stop someone from  stealing your guns, think again.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, thefts of guns are nearly twice as likely to be reported than thefts of other household items of comparable value.  Which means that gun owners understand the consequences of losing their guns.  All the more reason why both sides should be talking about gun safety in terms of theft control, and not just arguing about the social risks versus the social benefits of owning guns.

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One thought on “What Does Gun Safety Really Mean?

  1. Some recent posts on the anti sites make me think they have started taking their cure from the gun guys. When they joyously find a tragedy where a loaded firearm was used by a five year old to shoot a two year old they whine when the police say it was an accident. Perhaps the incident was in a state where there may be no law to charge the owner of the gun for allowing it to fall into the wrong hands so to speak.

    When the gun guys talk about accidental discharges they usually say there is usually no such thing as an accidental discharge with modern firearms. For one thing the attorneys who sue for liability influenced the companies to make ‘safer’ weapons where only negligent owners creates situations where someone gets hurt but usually the person was holding or carrying the gun not storing it in a dubious place.

    So I have to ask why don’t the gun guys pay more attention to negligent discharges caused by setting up conditions where kids play with the guns with unfortunate consequences. Maybe they already do. First, how many of the negligent discharges come from guns now owned by gun guys or gals? The gun guys/gals may be much more likely to lock up their guns so their kids cannot get at them or someone steal them. This may be less likely out in the country where the tradition of having guns around and kids know better than touch a weapon but then I have not seen stats on where the accidental negligent discharges take place. This sounds like a good place for some research. Where is John Lott when we need him? What we may be seeing is people who are not gun guys/gals buying a gun to feel safe versus evil with little experience with shooting and thinking if they hide the weapon the kids will never find them. There may be better explanations which is what the research may find. Possible places to look for correlations would be location, income, religion, NRA membership, CC permits, hunting and who knows what else. Saying there gun owners perhaps to too broad of a classification.

    Another way I am looking for the antis to take a cue from the gun guys is situation awareness preached in concealed carry circles. Jeff Cooper had his color codes matching different levels of attention. Most people (the sheep) walk around distracted by gadgets or at least not paying attention to their surrounding in code white. The enlightened (to borrow the liberal’s term) walk around in condition yellow where they are watching their surroundings. In condition orange the person has spotted danger gets ready to act then may enter condition red where they are in a fight. So what does this have to do with gun safety? People who preach condition yellow may ignore it once their guns leave their possession at home. They walk around their homes in condition white thinking they are protecting their sheep while there is a weapon one of their sheep could get at and hurt another of their sheep. Again I am not sure what the reality is here.

    A final one thing is Jeff Coopers rules of gun handling where people are supposed to 1)always treat a gun like it is loaded, 2)never point it at something you don’t want to destroy, 3)keep the finger out of the trigger guard until ready to shoot what you want to destroy and 4)always know your target and where the bullet will stop if you miss. It sounds nice. What is missing from these rules is a rule number five about what to do when you put the gun down and make it beyond your control. That should be rule number five when instructors teach the rules. Where can you put it so you can be sure it will be treated by the next person to pick it up just like you should be treating it or the next person cannot get it at all? How many people will follow the rules is something I cannot answer but they have to live with the results.

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