Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Firearms in the home, are they safe? (Yes!)

The essay, which I've slightly modified here was originally written for my English 111 class.

Are firearms in the home safe? That is a question often brought up, especially after an incident of a child dying as the result of a firearms accident. Whether or not having firearms in the home is safe of not depends mostly on the owner of the firearm. Millions of Americans keep guns in the home for sport and protection. Accidental deaths only occur with a very small minority of the gun-owning population. Merely following the basic rules of gun safety would reduce gun accidents. Overall however, firearms account for relatively few home injury deaths.

A report published on the www.preventinjury.org website states that in 2002, 80 children aged 14 or under died as a result of firearm accidents. While of course, the death of a child is always tragic, the site also states that 620 children aged 14 or under, died of suffocation, 420 died of drowning, 320 died of burns and 160 choked to death.

The Home Safety Council states that for the years 1992-1999, home firearm accidental deaths numbered on the average, 590 per year. However during the same time span, falls accounted for 5,961 home injury deaths, poisoning for 4,833 deaths, fires and burns 3.402 deaths and choking for 1,092 accidental deaths.

While accidental gun deaths are rare, they are even more rare when compared to other home injury deaths and only involve a small minority of the gun-owning public. www.GunCite.com, citing as sources gun supply statistics from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and accident rates reported by the National safety Council that accidental gun deaths overall has declined 60% , from 1975 to 1995 despite gun ownership increasing by about 60% during the same time period. (3)

Obviously and especially if there are children around, guns should be secured from theft or misuse. There are many types of gun lockers and safes available, ranging from the fairly low-security, metal storage locker type to heavy-duty safes. If the gun is kept for self-defense, there are also small safes that can be programmed with electronic combinations so that the gun can be accessed quickly during an emergency. There are also a few biometric safes that can only be opened by the owner’s or other authorized person’s fingerprints that are recognized by an electric reader on the safe. One of the simplest ways to keep most guns safe from unauthorized use is to lock a padlock in the trigger guard, with the hasp behind the trigger which will keep the trigger being pulled completely. Of course, this only works if the hasp is big enough to block the trigger.

Firearms owners with children should consider teaching them about firearms. There are many anecdotal accounts of children being raised around guns and even growing up with guns readily accessible to them and never having any accidents. One of my older friends said his father kept a gun in his dresser drawer and told his children not to touch it without him around. My friend told me they didn’t. While few people these days would consider that an option, teaching them about guns is a wise thing to do.

Paxton Quigley, in her book Armed & Female writes that it would be instructive to show children what a gun can do by shooting a cantaloupe or a full can of soda. She writes that such a demonstration will show young people that guns are to be taken seriously. (My English teacher wrote in her notes on my paper that seeing a cantaloupe explode may increase the interest of children, to which I say Cool! The intention isn’t to make children afraid of guns and become ball-less liberals, it’s to teach them that guns should be respected.)

Although many Americans may only keep firearms for hunting and other sporting purposes, many others, me included keep guns for self-defense. One often-cited claim, initiated by Dr. Arthur Kellerman of the Emory University School of Public Health is that a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an intruder.

Dr. Miguel Faria Jr., writing in the 30 September 1996 issue of The New American magazine states that in over half of the cases cited by Kellerman, the households had a history its members being arrested, over 30% of the households cited had a history of drug abuse. Dr. Faria (and many others) notes that Kellerman did not take into consideration incidents where a criminal was either frightened off or only wounded by an armed citizen.

Dr Faria also notes Professor Gary Gleck’s work in the book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, which reported that based on Gleck’s studies, guns are used defensively approximately 2.5 million times a year.

Are guns in the home safe? For the vast majority of law-abiding gun owners, yes. But it also takes common sense and education about gun safety.

Works Cited

Preventinjury.org Home Injury.

30 Nov 2004

Homesafetycouncil.org. Unintentional Home Injury Deaths

30 Nov 2004 <http://www.homesafetycouncil.org/state_of_home_safety/sohs_2004_w002.aspx

Guncite.com. Gun Accidents (and Kids & Gun Accidents)

< http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcgvacci.html>

Quigley, Paxton. Armed and Female. St Martin’s paperback edition, November

30, 1990.


Blogger Mark Ehrlich said...

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: John R. Lott Jr. wrote a great article called “The Big Lie of the Assault Weapons Ban” which can be found at: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-lott28jun28,0,4447615.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions


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