Gun safety: Halfway measures never cut it

Woke up the other morning and this was the headline that caught my eye:

“Kindergartener brings gun to Texas school, 3 hurt.”

None of the injuries were life-threatening and the details of how he got the gun are still being investigated but: (1) Kindergartener? (2) Loaded gun? (3) In a

school? and (4) Good grief, what had he (not) been taught by his parents?

Want to know who truly hates these stories? Responsible gun owners, that’s who.

It’s because we know what can happen when loaded firearms are left where kids can find them. It’s because we know that these incidents can be avoided. It’s because we know that only a tiny minority of gun owners leave guns where kids can get to them because that — in anybody’s book — is a certain recipe for disaster.

Too, when disaster happens, we hate explaining that guns aren’t evil. That they’re simply tools that must be handled and stored with utmost care. And, that the vast majority of gun owners understand this and are safety fanatics of the first order.

We hate knowing that the minority who leave loaded guns where kids can get them probably wander through the day thinking (if they think at all) that “Nothing can happen because I keep them hidden.”

What we truly want to ask such individuals is whether they actually believe that the kids don’t know where the guns are kept.

So now, I’m going to go on a bit of a tear because I know that headlines like this can be avoided, but it takes effort and, even though none of the following is new, it all bears repeating.

In this country, an individual has the right to own a firearm. However, along with that right comes an inescapable and unrelenting responsibility to handle and store those firearms safely, carefully, and conscientiously — especially whenever there are children nearby.

Think of the homes you’ve been in where children are present. Are the electrical outlets open?

Right. More likely you’ll see those little plastic caps that can be inserted into the outlets everywhere. Just to be safe.

Are cupboard doors easily opened?

Nope. Instead, you’ll find plastic hooks and locks everywhere to prevent kids from getting into places they shouldn’t. Just to be safe.

Are medicine bottles, cleaning containers and detergent bottles left open around the house?

No. Those items are tightly capped and stored in places where kids can’t get to them. Again, just to be safe.

Now, if we’re all willing to take these measures to protect our kids from electrical shock, knives, heavy objects, drugs, poisons and whatnot, why would we even consider leaving loaded firearms where they might find them?

So, if you choose to have firearms in your home, they need to be safely locked away with the ammunition stored (and locked) separately. However, if you live in an area where the police are only minutes away but trouble is right outside your door, there’s an answer for that too.

Buy a small metal safe that can be bolted to a nightstand or table. These can be opened in seconds if need be, but they will keep the firearm out of a kid’s hands. Under the bed, over the refrigerator, or on the closet shelf just won’t cut it.

In any event, if you have firearms, enroll your kids in a safety course. Better yet, take the course with them. Instill in them the idea that you’re absolutely serious about firearms safety. Make them understand that these aren’t toys and that they’re not to be played with.

Delete mystery from the equation. Squelch curiosity. Take them to a shooting range. Show them the potential deadliness of firearms. Many will find shooting an enjoyable and safe sport. Others will come away disliking guns and want nothing more to do with them. Either way, they’ll have learned a valuable lesson in safety.

Finally, a word to that small minority who’ll read this and still do none of the above.

Each of you is courting tragedy and I pray that you never discover that simple fact the hard way.

However, some of you will and, then, we’ll get to read your headline too.

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to larrysim@comcast.net.

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