Yesterday’s PediaBlog post prompted this thoughtful reply from a reader:
I agree this is quite a touchy subject. Both my husband and myself come from families who have always been what you could consider “pro-gun”, but with that upbringing also came a VERY strong respect for guns and gun safety. In fact, this respect was so deeply ingrained that my husband, as a pre-teen, had a friend who tried to show him his father’s gun collection. My husband walked out of the room saying, “Dude, that’s stupid and dangerous!” (Very brave for an eleven-year-old boy worried about seeming “cool”!)
I think one thing that we can agree on is that parents with guns in the house, while they are indeed free to have them, also bear the heavy responsibility of teaching children a healthy respect for firearms, especially gun safety. Like “the sex talk”, it’s also a talk that bears much repeating as children grow older and might begin to look at the topic differently. It’s not a topic that should be taboo in any home – that’s only likely to increase the fascination and allure of guns and decrease the respect for them.
Why is this a touchy subject? Why? I’m not saying you should be disarmed. But the right to keep and bear arms in the Second Amendment is in my mind self-limiting: your constitutional right to ensure a well-regulated militia. There is nothing that gives you the right to own an assault rifle or multiple round magazines because you like them, or because they’re fun. (I like to drive. I like to drive fast. The law prevents me from driving very fast. Why are guns different?) And if a militia is well-regulated, shouldn’t its tools (ie. guns) be judiciously distributed and meticulously accounted for? Should it be so easy for practically anyone to acquire a gun?
The New York Times’ Joe Nocera has been keeping track of gun violence in the United States for the past year on his blog The Gun Report. His findings bolster our reader’s desire for better gun education and respect:
First, the biggest surprise, especially early on, was how frequently either a child accidentally shot another child — using a loaded gun that happened to be lying around — or an adult accidentally shot a child while handling a loaded gun. I have written about this before, mainly because these incidents seem so preventable. Gun owners simply need to keep their guns locked away. Indeed, one pro-gun reader, Malcolm Smith, told me that after reading “about the death toll, especially to children” in The Gun Report, he had come to believe that some gun regulation was necessary. He now thinks gun owners should be licensed and “should have to learn how to store guns safely.” No doubt he’ll be drummed out of the National Rifle Association for expressing such thoughts.
Second, the N.R.A. shibboleth that having a gun in one’s house makes you safer is demonstrably untrue. After The Gun Report had been up and running for a while, several Second Amendment advocates complained that we rarely published items that showed how guns were used to prevent a crime. The reason was not that we were biased against crime prevention; it was that it didn’t happen very often. (When we found such examples, we put them in The Gun Report.) More to the point, there are an increasing number of gun deaths that are the result of an argument — often fueled by alcohol — among friends, neighbors and family members. Sadly, cases like the recent shooting in a Florida movie theater — when one man killed someone who was texting during the previews — are not all that uncommon.
Third, gang shootings are everywhere. You see it in the big cities, like Chicago, Detroit and Miami, and you see it in smaller cities in economic decline like Flint, Mich., and Fort Wayne, Ind. Drive-by shootings are prevalent in California, especially Los Angeles and Fresno. As often as gang members shoot each other, they kill innocent victims, often children who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Nocera’s conclusion — and the point of my original post, supported by a scientific study:
The idea that guns, on balance, save lives — which is one of the most common sentiments expressed in the pro-gun comments posted to The Gun Report — is ludicrous.
On the contrary: The clearest message The Gun Report sends is the most obvious. Guns make killing way too easy.
(Back Pat: Cindy S. Lessick)