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Quick access to guns is killing our kids

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Some months back, four-year old Bryson Mees-Hernandez (that’s him, to the left) found a gun in his grandmother’s house in Houston and shot and killed himself. Bryson acted like a typical youngster. He found something new and interesting and played with it. What his grandmother did—allow a firearm to lay unlocked out in the open—was inexcusable, but her behavior is excused in that we don’t mandate gun safety.

Bryson’s story is not singular. Kids frequently find unlocked guns and either shoot themselves or others. The Columbus Dispatch reported there were 74 accidental shootings in Ohio involving children between Jan. 1, 2014, and June 30, 2016. Nineteen died.

No gun safety laws on the books.

According to the Dispatch, Ohio doesn’t have any child-access prevention or safe-storage laws. Why? Because lives may depend on accessing guns quickly, says Rep. John Becker, R-Cincinnati. Think of the inverse of that statement: lives are unnecessarily lost from quick access to guns.

The argument over gun safety is always a win-lose proposition. One side says we need to protect kids from guns. The other side says we need quick access to guns. Because of the influence (and money) of the NRA and its affiliates, the latter argument generally prevails. It’s as if we can choose only one winner: child safety or quick access to guns.

The NRA sees any restriction as anathema. Jim Irvine, board president of the Buckeye Firearms Association, stated, “Parents are responsible for their kids. You can’t pass a law that makes an irresponsible parent responsible.”

We hold people accountable in other situations.

We hold people responsible all the time for a variety of safety issues. Look at the laws concerning cars. Want to take your three-year old daughter for a drive?  Better have a car seat in the car. How about if your daughter is 7-years old? Better make sure you have a booster seat and seat belts in the car for her. Fail either way, and you be fined $25 to $75. Fail a second time, and you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of misdemeanor of the fourth degree charge, which can mean up to 30 days in jail.

Mr. Irvine is right. We can’t legislate responsibility, but we can regulate behavior.  Martin Luther King, Jr., talked about changing behavior. Though his focus was on integration, his message is relevant here:

It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless. … So while the law may not change the hearts of men, it does change the habits of men. And when you change the habits of men, pretty soon the attitudes and the hearts will be changed. And so there is a need for strong legislation constantly to grapple with the problems we face.”

Not all gun owners are responsible.

Maybe Mr. Irvine is responsible enough to keep his firearms out of reach from youngsters, but we know with certainty too many other adults don’t. Those adults need to be held accountable. It’s no different than placing a child in a car without an adequate restraint system.

Kiwanis takes action.

My Kiwanis Club gives primacy to kids and their welfare, and so we made a grant of $10,000 to the Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics for the purchase of gun lock boxes. When pediatricians talk with parents about safety issues in the home and learn that a parent has a gun, that parent will be given a gun lock box.

I’ve examined one of those gun boxes. It’s locked by a key and takes almost no time to unlock. I suppose some will say that even the second or two it takes to unlock a gun box is too much time when your life is at stake. Maybe. But if a bad guy has that big of a drop on you, that second or two probably won’t mean much a difference anyway.

I’ll bet Bryson’s grandmother would have traded that second or two to have Bryson back.

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Jack D’Aurora writes for considerthisbyjd.com

is president of the Downtown Columbus Kiwanis Club

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Also published on Medium.

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Discussion

  1. Common sense  November 14, 2016

    We need to hold democrats responsable for the failed policy that have been responsible for so much death , in these areas run by Democrat’s

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  2. Bruce Lackey  November 14, 2016

    Another good one Jack. Working on correcting now with local Ohio legislator.

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  3. Bill Lyons  November 18, 2016

    Common sense article. Sadly, when it comes to gun ownership in this country there is little common sense!

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  4. WTKJD  December 20, 2016

    Having been involved in three incidents of defensive shooting, I can say a second or two can make a huge difference. However, I agree gun owners must be responsible. What is missing from your discussion is the efforts by the NRA (not it’s lobbying arm, the ILA) to teach gun safety to children. All my children were trained by the NRA Eddy Eagle program. That’s why may daughter, at 7 years old, saved several children from a neighborhood kid and his dad’s loaded, unsecured Glock 17. She followed the Eddie Eagle mantra to a tee: Stop, Don’t Touch, Leave the area, Tell an adult. New York schools adopted the Eddie Eagle program. California refused because it was an NRA program, but co-opted it. This is an education problem, not a gun problem, behavioral modification problem or law problem. Last, even when laws are on the books, prosecutors are loath to indict grandma after the loss she suffered.

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    • jdaurora@behallaw.com  December 20, 2016

      I’m glad to see that the Eddie Eagle program worked so well for your daughter. Good for her, and good for her friends! Still, I’m concerned about how well the program works overall.

      Here’s why. With the consent of the parents, ABC conducted an experiment in January 2014 at a preschool and child care center in St. Petersburg, Fla., and demonstrated that the Eddie Eagle program doesn’t work. The experiment is an eye-opener. (http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/hidden-camera-experiment-children-drawn-guns-found-classroom-22258370 )

      Youngsters, whose parents own guns, were shown the Eddie Eagle video and instructed by a police officer what to do if they found a gun. The message was reinforced by a teacher. A few days later, the officer hid an unloaded gun in the classroom.

      What did the kids do when they found the gun? They recited the “don’t touch” mantra but proceeded to touch the gun. Two boys looked straight down the barrel—and then called for an adult.

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      • WTKJD  December 20, 2016

        I don’t think that ‘study’ would withstand Daubert scrutiny. Moreover, the press isn’t what I would consider unbiased or reliable. But, I know it works from first hand experience, not just with my daughter, but with my niece and several other children. On the flip side, a child can get and use a key at a very young age. I would also recommend Mossad Ayoob’s “Gun Proof Your Children.”

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        • jdaurora@behallaw.com  December 21, 2016

          I’m not sure why you refer to Daubert, which is a principle for used in trials only. Regardless, I understand your cynicism about the press. Still, I think you would be impressed with what ABC presented. As for a child gaining access to a key, well, you’re right about that, which means the key has to be kept out of reach, just as firearms have to be kept out of reach.

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