A Holiday Safety Message From Everytown Which We Should All Read.

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.

everytown logo               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.

 

 

 

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Sorry, But The NRA’s Notion Of Gun Safety Just Doesn’t Work.

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.

safety                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.

The Be Smart Video On Sets A New Standard On Gun Safety.

This week a new gun safety campaign was launched by Everytown and Moms Demand Action called Be Smart, and you can usually judge the value of such efforts by the degree to which the pro-gun media weighs in on the other side.  They weighed in right away with multiple blogs and, as always, the infantile Breitbart response.  And one of the pro-gun bloggers got it right when she wrote that “allowing the anti-gun side to control the gun safety message is a big mistake.”

Until recently, the pro-gun gallery has owned the issue of gun safety, which they mostly define as keeping guns out of the ‘wrong’ hands, i.e., crooks, creeps and other undesirables who want access to guns for no other reason than to inflict harm.  The NRA has given a new hip-and-cool look to their Eddie Eagle program which has allegedly distributed millions of flyers although it’s unclear whether this effort has had any real impact at all. The NSSF gives away cable locks and has been running a public service campaign with the ATF about the danger of “straw” sales.  They also promote a competitive shooter with instructions for talking about gun safety with children, as if being a competitive shooter gives you the slightest credibility when it comes to knowing how to communicate with kids.

melissa                Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against any of the gun industry’s safety programs.  But opposing background checks for private gun transfers makes it pretty hard to argue that you’re all that worried about criminals and other disqualified individuals getting their hands on guns. The new Be Smart campaign, on the other hand,  goes beyond the usual arguments about gun safety that you get from both sides, and this is what makes it such an interesting and potentially effective effort which the gun folks better not simply deride or ignore.

The centerpiece of the program is a video narrated by Melissa Joan Hart, which for no other reason than she votes Republican makes it difficult for the pro-gun chorus to simply brand her as another liberal, gun-grabbing, Hollywood star.  But aside from the image, what we get are serious comments about issues the gun industry would rather you and I forget.  For example, there’s a very sober message about teen suicide and how much easier it is to commit suicide with a gun. For another, Melissa actually uses the phrase ‘risk factors’ when talking about gun-owning families where there is evidence of mental illness or substance abuse.  The most important comment, however, is when she notes that “kids are naturally curious,” and that a gun is therefore a risk unless it is locked up “one hundred percent of the time.”

I’m really happy to see these issues injected into the gun safety debate and let me break it to you gently:  Melissa’s being perfunctory when she mentions her concern about the 1.7 million kids living in homes where guns are loaded and unlocked.  It’s children living in every home where there is a gun who are at risk, because sooner or later every one of those guns will be left around. If you haven’t figured it out yet, let me break it to you gently:  We are human. We are careless. We forget.

The industry’s approach to gun safety is that they want it both ways.  People should own guns to defend themselves, but the reason guns are touted as the best defense against crime is because of their lethality and nothing else.  Sooner or later, if you are a gun-owner who believes that owning a gun makes you safe, that gun is going to be left out, unsecured and unlocked, which poses a risk to the kids.

I have a suggestion for trigger-heads who  get nervous giving up space in the gun-safety debate to folks who aren’t particularly enamored of guns.  Start talking about gun safety in a realistic way. Stop pretending that guns aren’t a risk just because we “always” lock them up or lock them away.  There’s still only one way to guarantee that you can’t have an accident with a gun.