We see it in the news with alarming regularity: someone accidentally shot by a gun, many times with tragic consequences. Often these news stories involve children, which makes the tragedy even more heart-wrenching.
Recently, an Evansville couple was arrested after a cell phone video showed their one-year-old child holding and playing with a gun. The story was picked up by news outlets around the country, including CNN's HLN TV news, and even though the gun did not fire while the child handled it, this frightening scenario underscores the ease with which a tragedy can happen.
Kids and Guns
The statistics are chilling. In the twelve-month period between December 2012 and December 2013, at least 100 children were killed in unintentional shootings, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. That's nearly two children a week, dying needlessly. In 65% of these cases, the gun involved was a legally-registered weapon belonging to the victim's family, and was not secured in any way, which could have prevented the shooting. A study funded by the federal government found that 8% of unintentional shooting deaths involved children under the age of six pulling the trigger.
The news is filled with reports of such events, from young children finding a gun and shooting themselves or others, to teens playing around with a gun that discharges and hurts them or a friend. You've heard the stories. You may even know someone personally affected by such an event. While accidental gun deaths are tragic no matter who may be involved, those involving children are even more difficult to comprehend.
The Debate Rages On
We live in an area of the country where hunting is a significant part of our recreational culture. Guns are a part of the lives of thousands of Tri-State families. Often, it's not a matter of if you come in contact with a gun, but when.
As a nation, we struggle with balancing our Constitutionally-protected rights against the safety of individuals and the public. There is an enormous national debate taking place over the rights of gun owners as guaranteed by the Second Amendment, and while we won't attempt to wade into this debate, both sides of the issue have strong points to make. As a law firm, we represent individuals whose lives have been turned upside down by the careless or reckless actions of another - and sometimes this includes cases involving guns. Gun cases are among the saddest cases we handle, and without a doubt, following gun safety rules could have prevented the great majority of these cases.
Gun Safety Rules
Regardless whether you have a handgun for home defense or a rifle for hunting, establishing and following a set of rules for the handling and storage of firearms in your home will go a long way toward preventing a gun tragedy. Some of these rules include:
- Store guns in a locked location, such as a gun safe or storage case, when not in use
- Make sure all guns are equipped with child-resistant gun locks
- Never store a loaded gun; always unload a gun before storing it
- Keep guns and ammunition stored in separate, locked locations
- Keep keys and combinations hidden
- When a gun is out of its locked storage location, always keep it in your line of sight
- Never leave guns unattended; do not leave guns on a nightstand, table, under your pillow, or anyplace else easily accessible to a child
- Know your weapon; understand how to load/unload it and practice shooting it at a controlled facility such as a firing range
- Never point a gun toward anyone, even unintentionally
- Always assume a gun is loaded
- Teach children to respect firearms; despite what they see onscreen, guns are not toys
- Provide a locked, safe place for any gun a visitor might bring into your home
- Make a habit of inquiring whether guns are a part of a household where your children visit or play; if so, ask about safety measures for firearms in that home
Pro-gun advocates are quick to invoke the Second Amendment rights of the individual to keep and bear arms, and as attorneys, we have great respect for the rights and laws of our nation. But the right to keep and bear arms comes with an enormous responsibility to behave in a safe manner with those arms. At Gerling, we encourage you to take gun safety seriously, whether you have guns in the home or not. Tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye.