Monday, March 28, 2016

Gun Safety: When was the last time you heard about a child catching on fire?

Let’s face it, some parents suck at their jobs. They fail to teach their children some very important topics. In these households, there is no debate about abstinence. There isn’t even an awkward offer to buy condoms or a prescription for birth control pills. About the only education on safety a child might get is a sore bottom when seen doing something dangerous, like using a blow dryer in the bathtub. The lack of widespread gun safety education is threefold:
  1. It is taboo for school to talk about guns in a frank and potentially positive manner;
  2. With the move to an urban lifestyle and population growth, hunting is less common than it was and
  3. Some gun-owing parents are too stupid or lazy to discuss gun safety with their kids. 

I’ll be the first to say it: there are a lot of people who shouldn’t own guns. Donny Dumbass who open carries to make himself look cool can’t keep from muzzle sweeping people in the gun store, and who takes a selfie with his finger on the trigger probably should be banned from owning guns, sharp objects, anything that makes fire, cars, alcohol, and reproducing. Yet when it comes to fundamental freedoms, you can’t limit gun ownership too much, no more than you can regulate who can vote or speak freely.

Growing up, I did a lot of stupid things. I cut the blinds with my new pocketknife (for reasons unknown even to me), which my dad simply laughed at. I learned the hard way why it was a bad idea to touch the lawnmower engine and why I was told to cut away from myself when whittling.

I always knew that the rifles were in my grandparents’ attic, just inside of the trapdoor. The refrigerator usually had beer or wine in it. Occasionally, liquor bottles were elsewhere in the kitchen. I had free access to matches and the fireplace too. Never once did I steal a drink, play with the guns, or start a careless fire.

In my law enforcement career, I saw a hillside catch fire because two Autistic children wanted to see a large plume of smoke. Other boys, who had discipline problems, were playing with matches and started a full-fledged brush fire. Mom and dad probably should have kept the matches and lighters in a locked drawer. Even so, kids can still get their hands on these items fairly easily, or heaven forbid, try making fire with a magnifying glass or rubbing two sticks together.

Many children need closer supervision that they receive. They need parental involvement and education that they simply don’t receive. Parents are too busy with the distractions of modern technology, busy with their work lives, or simply such poor human being that they cannot be bothered to do more than feed, clothe, bathe, and drop their children off at school. Even worse are the parents by accident who regard their children as an inconvenience or as a source of welfare income. These are the children that exasperated teachers cry for. All of us can probably name a family or two that only by the grace of God managed to have all children survive to adulthood.

When it came to fire safety, the biggest lesson I ever took away was when the fire department in my home town put on a safety fair at my grandparents’ church. The even brought a mobile home that they filled with dry ice smoke to teach us what to do if there was a fire. We practiced stop, drop, and roll until we were dizzy. Because of that lesson, even to this day as a grown man, I do not feel comfortable fishing a piece of toast out of the toaster, even with the appliance unplugged and cool. Those are lessons that stick.

Fire safety and drug avoidance (D.A.R.E. and Red Ribbon Week, anyone?) are all the rage in schools, but what about gun safety make it taboo? If there is a supposed epidemic of young children shooting themselves and others, why don’t schools teach gun safety? Instructor Mac says it well: “When was the last time you heard about a child catching on fire?”

Sex education brings out all sorts of parents; some who in the age of instant pornography want to pretend they can ignore their adolescent’s hormonal urges, who spend an entire evening railing at the school board. Mom and dad don’t want the teacher talking about sex, but they won’t have the conversation at home. Okay, not in every case though, and it’s a broad generalization, but where is the damn conversation about gun safety?

Parents have a huge role when it comes to influencing their children. Because of things I was told as a child, I won’t ride a motorcycle, I will never smoke, and I won’t try smoking pot. Why? Because above all my own personal reservations, it would disappoint my parents. Out of respect for them, I won’t go there. Sure, in other areas I will disappoint them, but the point I’m trying to make is parents reaching their children when they are young. Make the right impression early and it will stick for life. There is a reason all those anti-drug/drunk driving commercials keep saying “Talk to your kids.”

Take drug, alcohol, and tobacco education for example. Most of the government spending on it is money that is poured down the drain. Kids will drink, smoke, and try drugs. Those who don’t usually have parents that talked to them about that stuff. Even if the kids try it, the damage is mitigated, for the most part. Once my sister and I were old enough, our parents occasionally let us have a bit of alcohol. We never drove drunk, trashed the house, or developed an alcohol problem. Demystifying alcohol helped.

The same goes for guns. Kids dig through their parents’ things to find those hidden goodies. Children properly educated on the danger of guns don’t end up having charities named after them. Several of the gun owning parents that I know teach their children advanced gun safety—
they go beyond the typical don’t touch it, tell an adult rules. Their children keep their toy guns holstered and when they draw, they keep their finger off the trigger, just like mom and dad do. When their parents are cleaning their guns, they stand respectfully back and don’t grab for them. These kids preach gun safety to their friends.

In another anecdote, this one dating from the 1940s, courtesy of a sweet woman I worked with at the sheriff’s office, her police officer father kept his pistol in drawer in the dining room. Once she wanted to show it to her friends, but she made all of the kids put their hands behind their backs and promise not to touch it. So not exactly up to today’s standards, but she and the other kids showed far more respect than the gangbanger’s kid who shows off his dad’s Saturday Night Special kept under a pillow.

Parents must teach their children about gun safety. Asking other parents about unsecured guns in the home isn’t a bad idea. A frank conversation about not being a dumbass gun owner might lead someone to change their ways. It could be that these parents are so uneducated on guns themselves that the thought may never have occurred to them.

Nevada probably should have a stronger law requiring safe storage with children in the home, but Nevada must avoid the overly stringent laws of California. Adults without children shouldn’t be under the same restrictions and government must never make the mistake that legislation will cure all evil. For instance: 
  • A ‘loaded chamber indicator’ isn’t going to matter to a child who can’t read or doesn’t understand how a gun functions, let alone what the indicator means.
  • A magazine disconnect safety doesn’t work if the magazine is inserted.
  • Requiring a gun be unloaded and locked or in safe doesn’t work if someone doesn’t do it. 

Talk about gun safety with your kids. When they’re old enough, teach them how to school. Invest in a quick-action safe so your gun can be kept out of little hands, yet ready for action. We don’t need ‘safe guns’, we don’t need draconian legislation, we don’t some anti-gun mom telling us that gun ownership is the root of all modern evil. We need good parenting and gun safety education.


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