Every week, if not more frequently, the media carries yet another story about a young kid who kills himself or someone else, often a parent, with a gun. And I’m not talking ‘young kids’ as in twelve year olds. I’m talking like young kids who have not yet reached the age of five.
Last year, a few days after Chsristmas, a two-year old got into his mother’s pocketbook while she was shopping in a Walmart, yanked out her Smith & Wesson pistol that she was carrying for self-defense, pulled the trigger and shot her dead. A month later in New Mexico the victims were a father and mother whose three-year-old son shot them both in a motel. It’s really gruesome when this kind of shooting takes place but it seems to happen all the time.
When it comes to this kind of gun violence, everyone in the gun debate appears to be on the same side, at least up to a point. The GVP community wants mandatory CAP laws extended to every state; the gun gang is opposed to any mandatory legal fix, but never lets a day go by without reminding us that they have distributed more than 36 million locks and kits that teach young shooters how to be safe around guns. Is there a single medical organization or pro-gun group that hasn’t come out one way or the other in favor of locking up or locking away the guns?
With all due respect to the honest energies and safety concerns on both sides of the gun debate, I happen to think that the ‘lock ‘em up, lock ‘em away’ approach to gun safety is a little bit beside the point. Or to put it another way, to promote gun safety with trigger locks and safe storage is kind of like using an elephant to swat a flea. Here are the numbers. According to the CDC, in 2013 there were 505 unintentional deaths and 16,864 non-fatal injuries involving guns. Of these totals, 69 kids under the age of 15 were accidentally shot to death, 538 under the age of 15 were injured fooling around with a gun. If every civilian-owned gun in the United States was locked up or locked every night, and every loaded gun that wasn’t secured was kept away from every kid, the death and injury toll from gun accidents would drop by slightly more than 3 percent! And please, please don’t start with how every human life is sacred and should be spared. I’m not talking about theology or compassion, I’m talking about whether the policies we adopt for dealing with a medical condition which kills or injures more than 17,000 Americans each year are policies that will yield results.
Know why people accidentally wound or injure themselves or others with a gun each year? Because we are human beings, and as human beings we are prone to make mistakes, do stupid things, act in careless ways or are just plain dumb. Want the best example I can find? Take a look at this video of a cop buying an off-duty gun with which he shot himself in the hand:
Stupid #1: Clerk didn’t check to see if the gun was loaded.
Stupid #2: Cop didn’t check either.
Stupid #3: Cop points gun at someone else.
Stupid #4: Cop sticks his hand in front of the barrel.
Stupid #5: Cop accidentally drops mag and at the same time shoots off the gun.
Now go back, watch the video again, and while it’s rolling repeat these words: Pledge, practice, promote firearm safety. Say it a couple of more times while the video rolls again. Know what you just said? You just said the Glock Firearm Safety Pledge.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never advocated banning guns and I never will. But anyone who thinks that with 300 million lethal weapons floating around we are going to prevent 17,000 people from behaving like jerks each and every year doesn’t know anything about guns. Or about jerks.