Blaming guns

This seems to be the point of view, I’ve noticed: if a person kills another person with a knife, the killer is blamed, but if a person kills another with a gun, the gun is blamed.

This point of view becomes even more pronounced when a person’s death is entirely accidental, but the result of a gunshot. In Independence, Missouri, a city in the Kansas City metropolitan area only about 15 minutes from where I live, a 3 year-old boy discovered a loaded handgun and pulled it out to play. Unfortunately this play turned tragic and the child shot himself and died shortly thereafter.

What is to blame in this scenario? Now one could go to the extreme and say that if guns were banned, then that gun would not have been in that home for the child to discover. That is what a friend of mine implied when she left this comment to my Facebook page:

While I feel badly for the family, the parents have only their own stupidity to blame for this. How many times do kids have to die from accidental self-shootings before people realize that it’s a bad idea to keep guns around?

Blame the gun rather than the parents who were not responsible enough to keep the gun properly locked up. It is all too convenient to blame the hazard rather than those who did not go to reasonable lengths to mitigate it. And it is blaming the hazard that has brought our society to its current point.

This was my response to my friend:

Keeping guns around isn’t a bad idea. Having children around with guns in the house that are stored loaded or improperly secured is the bad idea. Every gun owner must know how to properly store and secure their firearms.

Any responsible gun owner knows that proper storage of a firearm requires that it not be stored loaded. If the firearm is to be stored loaded, such as for home defense, it should be locked in a gun safe. A firearm is not dangerous unless pressure is applied to the trigger while a round is chambered. As I’ve heard elsewhere, the best gun safety is the one you have between your ears because no gun is idiot-proof.

If you do not know how to properly secure and store your firearm, you should not own one until you learn this. If you already own firearms, please refresh yourself on how to properly store one, especially if you intend to store the firearm loaded.

Such a notion would have prevented the death of a 33 year-old father in Indiana, who was shot by his 3 year-old son after he found the loaded handgun and, as can be implied by the news reports, decided to show his father what he had discovered. Now it’s unclear as to whether the house they were in actually belonged to the decedent, as the news reports say that he was "at the house doing some remodeling work". One thing that is clear is that someone is responsible for the improperly-secured, loaded firearm.

But lost in the flurry of stories that get published whenever someone is wrongly injured or killed from a gunshot are stories where guns save lives and prevent crimes. You don’t hear about crimes that were deterred when a lawfully-permitted concealed-carrying citizen brandished their firearm at the right time, unless that person comes forward. There are several examples of this on YouTube where individuals have posted videos describing such situations. And unless you live in an area where the incident occurred, you tend to not hear where a gun is used to defend the lives of others.

Such was the case in Phoenix where a 14 year-old boy defended his younger siblings with his parents’ handgun. The teenager was home watching his siblings when the home was invaded. He rushed his siblings upstairs to take cover and he went to get his parents handgun. When the intruder pointed a handgun at the teen, the teen discharged his weapon, nearly killing the intruder.

That case clearly displays the common statement by gun-rights supporters: "when seconds matter, the police are minutes away." The teen could have taken cover and called the police – which many anti-gun proponents were likely saying should have occurred in that case – but the teen had no way of knowing how quickly the police would have shown, and to what. It is the unknowns that gun-rights supporters point to in situations like the one demonstrated in Phoenix as a reason that guns are a good idea for home defense. Add to this the fact that the Courts have repeatedly said you do not have a right to police protection.

The teen in Phoenix knew what to do. He knew where his parents guns were and, more importantly, how to use it, especially in a time of need. And in that time of need, he neutralized the threat posed by the armed intruder.

That is the sequence: neutralize the threat, then call the police. It’s not good to call the police while the threat is still imminent and the extent of it unknown unless you have good reason to believe you will have time to dial 911 and calmly and coherently relay to the dispatcher the important information necessary to get the police to where you are. Under threat to your life and safety, would you be able to do that?

Accidental deaths from firearms are tragic, but avoidable with proper education in how to properly secure a firearm. This means you do not store a firearm loaded. If you do store it loaded, it should be locked in a safe. Remember that a firearm is only dangerous when a round is chambered and a finger is on the trigger. The idea with gun safety is to keep a finger off that trigger unless it is necessary to place one there.

A gun is a tool, and like virtually every other tool, including those you can readily buy at any hardware store, there are risks associated with them. But with proper education you can mitigate those risks. But also remember that a gun is not a threat of any kind until it is in someone’s hands. But in the right hands at the right time, it just might save your life.