“Details about what happened to two boys found shot to death with their father’s handgun trickled out as sheriff’s deputies tried to piece together the evidence,” contracostatimes.com reports. “San Bernardino County sheriff’s Sgt. Frank Bell said investigators are considering the possibility of a suicide pact or a murder- suicide. ‘I don’t think we’ll ever absolutely or concretely know for sure whether (it was a) murder-suicide or suicide pact, but obviously something along those lines happened.’ Bell said the gun was kept in a case that wasn’t locked.” The obvious lesson: there are only two places for a gun. On your hip or in a locked safe. The less obvious takeaway: gun owners must constantly monitor their family’s mental health and react according. Including your own.

Gun control advocates often argue that civilians are not mentally stable enough to own guns. No one should own a gun because even the most sane citizen is a dormant volcano. Build up enough pressure and KABLAM! Add a firearm to this mix and you have the recipe for murder, suicide or murder – suicide.

To this way of thinking, every example of murder, suicide or murder – suicide by someone other than a convicted felon is proof that private gun ownership is a tragedy waiting to happen. The fact that the incidence of non-gang gun violence borders on statistical insignificance is neither here nor there. If ONE life is saved, then no one should have guns. If ONE child is killed, that goes double. Two? What are you, nuts?

It’s not the worst possible question to ask. In fact, it’s on both the state and federal firearms purchase forms. A responsible gun owner should accept the fact that his or her mental health can change over time. If you feel yourself slipping into depression, extreme anxiety or Mel Gibsonian anger issues, it’s YOUR job to lock up your guns so that you can’t get access to them.

I know that concept’s riddled with flaws. By the time you realize that you need to walk away from your gun or guns, it may be too late. To whom do you give the final say-so for regaining control of your firearms? Would it even matter? A “motivated” gun owner can get access to a firearm fairly easily.

But “fairly easy” is not the same as “easy.” And yes, there are some gun owners who would have the presence of mind to see their state of mind degrading and restrict their access to guns. [Hint: when people start expressing concern about your mental health, they may be right.]

Monitoring your family members’ mental health is a little more clear cut, but it requires an equally difficult response. You still want firearms to protect your family, perform your job or continue your hobby. Obviously, you should NEVER leave a firearm unattended, if it’s not in a locked safe. But if anyone can defeat your security systems, it’s your flesh and blood.

You have three choices: up your firearms security (change lock codes, increase awareness), up your firearms security some more (disable your firearm, store ammo separately) or up your firearms security to its highest possible level (remove all firearms and ammunition from the home).

Granted: children are excellent at hiding their feelings. But there are warning signs for suicidal urges. And despite the common misconception of sudden, explosive, murderous rage (i.e. Falling Down), that kind of violence also expresses itself in recognizable symptoms.

I don’t believe that mental illness is inherent in all of us, as gun control advocates suggest. But it is our responsibility as gun owners to take account of the possibility, and react appropriately Not to coin a phrase, the life you save may be your own. Or someone you love.

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