By Kyle in CT
Every time I try to talk to some of my anti-gun compatriots, eventually the “for the children” meme comes out. You know the one: “For every instance in which a gun in the home was shot in self-defense, there were seven criminal assaults or homicides, four accidental shootings, and 11 attempted or successful suicides.” It’s not that the numbers truly support this view. As Nick has pointed out on numerous occasions, it’s baloney from people with an axe to grind. So why is this fallacy so persistent? Because it’s not a meme . . .
The reality is that every year there are more than a few children and families that meet tragedy when a child gets ahold of a gun unexpectedly. While we may not know exactly how many times this happens, another pro-gun control favorite in this case is actually true: one is too many.
There is no statistic anyone can quote that makes the preventable loss of a child’s life “acceptable”. Shannon Watts and her ilk get so much traction on this issue because it is truly the nightmare scenario for a parent. In addition, the pro-2A answer to this problem has been a bit . . . anemic. Oh sure, we have the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program, and the NSSF’s Project ChildSafe, but somehow they just don’t feel terribly substantive in the face of such risk.
Unfortunately, I’m not here to suggest a solution. As depressing as it is to admit, there really isn’t much the government, gun manufacturers, or the NRA can do to prevent accidental shootings of any kind, short of trampling on everyone’s civil rights. Instead, for the sake of the parents out there, I want to tell a story.
When I was 12, I had my first experience with a gun. My mother was adamantly opposed to guns in all forms, and so it was only with great trepidation that she allowed my stepfather to introduce me to his well-loved Marlin Model 60. But introduce me he did, and of course I was hooked almost immediately.
I loved the challenge of precision, the necessity of making my hands obey my mind. I was constantly asking him to go shooting with me, and to his credit he humored me more times than not. To this day, those hours are something I hold dear to my heart.
But even under these monitored conditions, mistakes can be made. During one such shooting session, my stepfather went to check something in the garage, leaving me on the porch with the rifle sitting on our shooting table. After what seemed like an eternity waiting for him to finish whatever he was doing, I did what every kid does; I got impatient.
It started with just inspecting the stock, looking at the various impressions that time (and occasional lack of care) had made on the wood. Then I moved on to the tube magazine, as I wanted to better understand how it worked. Then I got to the trigger. I started fiddling around the trigger guard, and as many a media outlet has said before, “it just went off”.
Of course, it didn’t just go off. I was playing around in the trigger assembly, the safety was off, and I unexpectedly pulled the trigger. The bullet skimmed the table, ricocheted off a bit of old metal tomfoolery that had been on it since the beginning of time, and lodged itself in the corner of the house. I didn’t have a mirror with me, but I’m pretty sure that for just a moment, every last drop of blood in my face took a vacation to the pit of my stomach.
For a moment I just stood there, with the dumb look of a child who, in an instant, has realized the deep dark depths of their own stupidity. Being an honest kid, after the blood returned to my face, I told my stepfather what had happened. Ever the embodiment of reason and given the negligible size of the hole in our house, we decided it would benefit both of our life expectancies to neglect to mention anything to my mother.
I never forgot this incident. To this day, I double and triple check every gun that enters my hands. But my story doesn’t end there. As any parent will know, sometimes once isn’t enough.
On a couple of occasions over the following year I went into my parent’s bedroom to check out my stepfather’s pistol, which he kept under his socks in the dresser. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be playing with it. I knew it was dangerous. I was certainly old enough and had the experience to understand what “playing” with a gun could mean. But I did it anyway.
Sure, when I pulled it out of the drawer I automatically unloaded and manually checked the chamber more than once, but the fact remains that I was playing with a gun when I shouldn’t have been. I was playing out my mother’s (and every parent’s) worst fears. While nothing bad ever came of these unplanned rendezvous with a gun, it is humbling to look back and think of the possibilities.
Of course, this didn’t last forever. Eventually, I got into competitive shooting. I met my first firearm love, a well-worn Izhmash BI-7-2 with a silky-smooth bolt and a sense of character that I have yet to replicate with any other gun. I had a couple rifles that lived in my bedroom, and never again did I do anything irresponsible with a firearm. In a sense, I grew out of it. Once I had access to a firearm whenever I wanted, the mystery was gone.
But the fact remains, I was still a child that got into his parent’s guns when they weren’t home. More to the point, I was a good kid. I know every mother says that to their children, but I really was. I never got into trouble, got straight A’s through school, never stayed out late, the whole deal. In every other conceivable way I was a model of responsibility. My parents never worried about locking the guns away because they assumed that I was not going to go looking for them. It wasn’t an unreasonable assumption. They had no reason not to trust me. But while that trust may not have been misplaced, it certainly proved to be excessive.
The moral for parents is simply this: trust, but verify. As Robert recently opined, “Never underestimate the intelligence of a child when it comes to finding contraband.”
Even the best of kids can succumb to the whims of their inexperience, and that is why we, as parents, are the final authority when it comes to our children’s safety. Many of us own guns precisely because we want to be able to protect our family. But sometimes we fail to recognize that the danger can come from within.
Whatever storage method and training regimen you think is appropriate for your home, I only ask that you consider my story, and honestly reflect on your decisions. Not everyone will come to the same conclusions and that’s OK. Just don’t roll the dice with your children’s safety on the premise “my kid knows better than that”. You can’t afford to be wrong.