I’m very lucky. Every year when the holidays roll around I’m one of those people who will spend time with a loving, supportive family, entertain and visit friends and even attend an office party from which, if I’m careful, I can drive myself home. But the holidays also mark a time when many of us don’t do so well; we are alone, or depressed, or drink too much during this and other times of the year. Some of us don’t have family, don’t have friends, the Thanksgiving dinner if we’re lucky, is consumed at a shelter or in the street.
I’m sure you, like me, have responded to requests for donations to this or that program which will bring some cheer into other people’s lives. Americans are generous, we like to help those in need. I’ll pay for some dinners to be served at a halfway house, my neighbor runs Toys for Tots at our local KofC. Which is why I was heartened to see that Everytown has just posted a Holiday Safety Message on its Be Smart campaign. Because gun accidents, more than any other kind of safety issue, are chilling and scary events. And if you don’t believe me, just ask the residents of Hayden, ID, who had to find the strength to get through the Holidays last year after a young and vigorous Mom was shot dead in Walmart by her two-year old son.
The Everytown holiday safety message continues a safety campaign started last year which tries to remind parents that there are ways to deal positively and properly with the risks of guns. It’s a no-brainer to lock guns up when they’re not being used; ditto keep them unloaded around the home and, most important, always keep guns out of the hands of kids. Children are naturally curious, they have no sense of risk or fear, they teach themselves about the world by touching everything around them and for sure this includes guns.
The gun industry has been promoting its own brand of gun safety largely through the ChildSafe program run by the NSSF. The program distributes gun locks and safety literature and encourages parents to talk to their children about safe behavior around guns. But what this program does not do is tell parents to talk to other parents about their guns. And this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, because parents who send their children to play at someone else’s home have a right to know whether that home is safe. And like it or not, no matter what the NRA says about the benefits of gun ownership outweighing the risks, the fact is that a home with a gun inside it is a home where a gun accident could take place.
In 2013, the last year for which we have good data, 16,864 Americans were the victims of non-fatal, unintentional injuries from guns. Now listen carefully: 14,886 were males and 16,326 were over the age of 15. In other words, when it comes to accidental shootings, what we are really talking about are boys and men playing with their own guns. Now don’t get me wrong; every life is precious and nobody should endure the heartache and pain of losing a life, particularly the very young. But gun safety, when all is said and done, is a function of the fact that we are humans which means we are careless and we forget. The real value of Everytown’s holiday safety message is that it serves as a reminder that a memory lapse with a gun can have a terrible effect.
If there’s one thing the pro-gun community has decided is that groups like Everytown are just promoting gun safety to disguise the fact that the real goal is to confiscate all guns. Let me break it to the pro-gun folks gently – there wouldn’t be any reason for Everytown to talk about gun safety if gun owners would all lock up their guns.