One of the big changes in the gun debate is the degree to which advocacy organizations like Moms Demand Action and Brady have started moving into the safety space. Shannon et les filles have launched a program called Be Smart, Brady wants to cut gun deaths in half by 2025 with their ASK campaign, suddenly a field that the NRA and the NSSF had all to themselves has attracted a new and vigorous group of gun safety campaigners who have the money and the experience to make their views count.
But if Moms and Brady are going to level the safety playing field, I think they need to really understand what the current gun safety problem is all about. Because both groups seem to be looking at gun safety in a way not much different from how gun safety has been defined and taught by the NRA, and I happen to think that the NRA approach ducks the biggest safety problem of all.
Shannon’s program asks parents to try and keep their guns secure, keep the guns out of the hands of vulnerable people like those suffering from depression, keep the guns locked up or locked away at all times. Brady focuses on one issue, also promoted by Moms, that parents should always ask other parents whether there is an unlocked gun where the kids are going to play. The NRA would never endorse the idea of parents communicating with other parents about guns ownership, but locking guns up or locking them away, what the NRA calls storing guns “so they are not accessible to untrained or unauthorized persons” is a standard M.O. announced in every NRA course.
Keeping guns secure in the home, making sure that kids can’t access guns under any circumstances is all well and good, and don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that Shannon’s gals and the Brady Campaign are now engaged in safety programs as an aspect of their involvement in the gun debate. But all that notwithstanding, I still don’t believe that ‘lock ‘em up, lock ‘em away’ is either sufficient or necessary for responding to the safety risk posed by guns. Because as long as the gun industry and its supporters continue to promote gun ownership primarily as a means of self-defense, by definition you can’t defend yourself with a gun if it’s locked up or locked away.
The problem becomes even more vexing because the 2008 Heller decision, which proclaimed a constitutional right to private ownership of guns, was based on what Scalia called, the “tradition” of keeping a handgun in the home for self-defense. In fact, the Court’s Number One Gun Nut invented this so-called tradition out of whole cloth, unless he really believes that a cynical marketing ploy to compensate for the decline in hunting after the 1980s constitutes some kind of traditional belief. Be that as it may, if you’re going to walk around in the daytime with a concealed weapon and then leave it out on the end-table when you go to sleep at night, you can’t lock it up or lock it away.
And this is where I think Shannon’s ladies and the Brady folks need a message that more clearly distinguishes their notion of safety from the nonsense being peddled by the NRA. And why do I call the NRA safety message nonsense? Here’s a quote from the 2011 edition of Home Firearm Safety, a book the NRA has been selling for twenty-five years: “A gun stored primarily for personal protection must be ready for immediate use. As a general rule, a gun stored for any purpose other than personal protection should never be loaded in the home.” My italics and thanks a lot.
One week after Sandy Hook, Wayne-o belligerently reminded America that a bad guy with a gun could only be stopped by a good guy with a gun. Which means we need a lot of good guys walking around and lying down to sleep with their loaded, unlocked guns. Sorry, but that doesn’t sound all that safe to me.