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“An 11-year-old boy was shot in the head while playing with his stepfather’s handgun Friday,” reports, continuing the media tradition of using passive construction to describe firearms “accidents” involving children. “The shooting happened around 5:30 p.m. Friday at the boy’s home in the 100 block of Thompson Street. The boy, whose name has not been released, was with two neighborhood friends, both also 11. They somehow found the key to a safe that belonged to the boy’s stepfather and found the pistol, Kilburn said. It was unclear who was holding the gun when it went off.” But it is clear that a bogus firearms safety rule has claimed another life . . .

That rule is deceptively simple: always lock up guns to keep them away from children. At the risk of going out on the ragged edge of gun safety, I reckon that’s only half a rule. In other words, the rule should be “always lock up guns to keep them away from children and teach them the rules of gun safety.” To do anything less is to put your children in harm’s way.

A gun safe is safe against burglars. When it comes to protecting your children, a gun safe is only safe up until the moment a child can open a door on their own. At that point, you have to assume that they can open your gun safe. ‘Cause you know what? They can. Kids are curious and clever and they don’t have a job. They have plenty of time to plot and plan how to get what they really, really want. To believe that a key or a combination will keep your kids away from your guns is a dangerous delusion.

Which would you rather have: an impregnable gun safe or children who are comfortable and familiar around real guns, who know to respect and yes handle firearms safely from an early age? Remember: in the first case, your kids are only safe from your guns. In this incident, the stepson was accompanied by two kids from outside the family who could have just as easily shot each other, or been shot.

And what of their houses? Are you completely confident that other gun-owning parents always keep their firearms under lock and key? Not if you have an ounce of common sense, or a drab of parental paranoia.

There is only one solution: gun education. If your child knows the difference between a toy gun and a real gun, if they know to keep a real gun pointed in a safe direction and their finger off the trigger, if they know to take control of the situation and/or bug out if their friends are playing with a gun, they will have the basic firearms survival skills they need for a wide range of potentially lethal situations.

I also believe tat children should also be taught how to unload a handguns, rifles and shotguns. But I understand the counter-argument there. In any case, there is no excuse for believing that locking up a gun renders it safe. There is no such thing as a safe gun. Only gun safety.

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