EDITORIAL: Good intentions don’t protect kids from shooting themselves — gunlocks do

A gun locked with a cable gunlock. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Despite insistence and perseverance by gun enthusiasts, deadly weapons are not casual attire nor wise household bric-a-brac, guaranteed by the Constitution.

Guns, and handguns in particular, are fiercely lethal devices that intentionally and unintentionally perform exactly what they were designed to do: fire rounds of deadly bullets.

State lawmakers this week are seeking a new law to try to curb the number of people, mostly children, who come across guns recklessly kept in sock drawers, night stands and old luggage, and shoot themselves or others.

An Associated Press story this week reports that in the last decade, 312 kids under 20 killed themselves with guns in Colorado, about 31 children and teens each year, according to the Colorado Violent Death Reporting System. Nationally, reports show it’s more than 1,000 children each year.

A horrific Aurora case in 2015 resulted in no charges against a father who carelessly left his handgun in a coat pocket, which was discovered by his 12-year-old son. The boy knew where in the house the bullets were. While having friends over, with the parents not home, he got out the gun and ended up inadvertently shooting a 7-year-old friend in the head.

At the time, the prosecutor said state laws and evidence precluded charges being filed against the boy or his father. The boy’s father said he had no idea that his son even knew there was a gun in the house.

Experience and tragic history has made clear, kids know.

The father told police that he had “hidden” the gun inside the pocket of a jacket hanging inside a closet. He said he stored a clip and ammunition separately.

The Arapahoe County DA at the time said that was good enough to protect children from doing the unthinkable, such as finding the gun, the ammunition and playing with it while the parents are away and shooting someone.

The law and the prosecutor were wrong then, and now.

House Bill 1106 would require gun shops to provide gunlocks with every purchase, and require gun owners to use them.

About half of the more than 2 million homes with children and guns in the United States don’t have locked and unloaded weapons, according to a report by Everytown for Gun Safety.

The study revealed that “more than 70 percent of children under age 10 knew where their parents stored their guns — even when they were hidden — and 36 percent of the children reported handling the weapons.”

Shockingly, the fines for leaving a running car unattended are more punitive than leaving a gun carelessly stashed under a bed.

While some research shows that as more Americans buy and harbor guns, the chances increase that a child will find and try to use it, clarity of how serious the problem is still evades the nation.

That’s because powerful gun lobbies prevent the federal government from accurately analyzing gun violence.

But we do know that about 1,300 kids a year are killed by guns, often by other kids with guns, sometimes even toddlers, and they shoot adults as well. Multiple studies claim gunfire is a leading cause of death of children under 18.

Opponents argue the gun-lock bill unconstitutionally limits gun rights. Similar bills in other states, upheld by courts, clearly proves that wrong. A Massachusetts law mandating safe gun storage and locks works for everyone.

Critics appeal to the fear that likely prompted gun purchases in the first place. They say safe gun storage would keep them from quickly reaching for a loaded weapon to protect themselves from home invaders and others.

Reality dismisses these claims, but the law, possibly unwisely, makes accommodations for people who feel the need to sleep next to their guns.

Some local gun enthusiasts and law enforcement officials said the state should instead focus on educating gun owners about safe gun storage, rather than creating penalties for those who didn’t know better.

“You don’t do it by creating laws that have penalties after an accident occurs. It’s completely ineffective, so focus on the education,” Erik Stone, a Teller County commissioner said at a bill committee hearing, according to an AP story.

Colorado should do both. Force gun sellers to instruct and quiz gun buyers about safe storage and this new law, and enforce the law when it’s violated.

What Colorado lawmakers can’t do is wait until the next child is maimed or killed because legislators were unsure of the problem or the solution.

The problem exists. The answer is House Bill 1106.

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4 months ago

Totally agree with the law. My late father was police officer (eventually a homicide detective) in the NYPD. He said the hardest cases (and he saw some horrible cases) were when kids got a hold of a gun and accidentally killed themselves or someone else. He said it destroyed the parents and the family/families and he found them the hardest cases to work.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
4 months ago

I cannot now, nor have I ever been able to understand the abject fear and paranoia of anyone who thinks he needs to have a locked and loaded weapon at his side 24/7 as protection against some potential boogeyman. Yes, home “invasions” occur, I’m sure, but they are few and far between. Far more relatives, friends and family members have been killed than “invaders.” This entire narrative should fall on deaf ears.

I once went to a house party and accidently walked into the wrong house. Did I deserve to be killed on the spot? I leave that ethical dilemma up to the readers.

If it ever came to the point that I had to live in such fear in my country, I would not want to be here any longer. I’m sorry, but I cannot imagine having to live like that. There are lots of other fears that are a lot-more real and important. Somehow, we, as Americans, need to move forward from the inane thought that a gun is the most-important thing we can have. But I understand that he with the most and the biggest guns wins in our current mode of thinking.

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy
4 months ago

You know everyone has an opinion, just because you think you are correct does not make your opinion mandatory for someone else. Personally I think it is a moral and ethical responsibility to be able to defend yourself and your family. I will never change my mind no matter what some braindead moron who is scared of life and complains about values while constantly deriding other people heartfelt beliefs. Do us a favor, go away, go live in some dream world where bad things never happen, where the government is your friend

4 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Duffy

Defend against what, or who? It must be terrible to live with such fear and paranoia, Dennis.

4 months ago
Reply to  denver_dad

We don’t live in fear BECAUSE we protect ourselves!