Child Safety Locks Give False Security


In the July 31, 1997 issue of the Montgomery Journal in an article entitled "Child safety locks on handguns simply common sense", Sarah Brady of Handgun Control, Inc. writes about this emotional issue. Even though Handgun Control openly states that their purpose is not to ban handguns, they work diligently behind the scenes with lawmakers to put such restrictive laws in place that a firearm becomes virtually useless for self-defense purposes.

Below is the official MCSM response to Sarah Brady which was published in the Montgomery Journal on August 11, 1997...


By Robert Culver

This letter is written on behalf of Montgomery Citizens for a Safer Maryland in response to the Viewpoint article by Sarah Brady, "Child safety locks on handguns simply common sense" (July 31, The Journal).

The headline portends a discussion on common sense and child safety. The article presents neither.

The article equates the application of safety seals on medicine bottles to guns: "Yet guns--by definition designed to injure and kill--don't have similar safety precautions." Then: "One possible solution to this glaring omission in common-sense safety would be child safety locks on handguns."

The only glaring omission here is the omission of reason. Instead of common sense, we have a hasty, emotional and misguided reaction. This omission would be cured by the application of careful study and reason, tempered by consideration of the unintended consequences.

Classifying guns as designed to injure and kill is, at a minimum, an intentionally alarming characterization of guns and, by extension, of those who own them.

More correctly, guns used in self defense are to stop an attack, period. Whether by saying he is armed, displaying a firearm, aiming a firearm, or discharging one, in all these circumstances they are used to stop an attack.

An individual is injured or killed in only a small percentage of defense situations. Unlawful use of a firearm is the antithesis of self-defense use, condemned by all lawful gun owners.

If the real focus of Ms. Brady's column were safety from accidental discharge, then why include comments like, "Gun violence (as a) youth-related problem," "70 percent of murder victims between 15 and 17," etc.? At best, such comments are irrelevant; at worst they are included to intentionally deceive and confuse the issue.

Safety is best secured by knowledge and training in a subject. Technical add-ons, mandated by law, have a poor history in many cases of improving safety. Take a quick look at accident statistics from bicycles, lawn mowers, swimming pools, etc. Now think about the helmets left unworn, the safety kill switches tied down and the fence gates left open, all "common sense" cures, defeated or forgotten that led eventually to tragedies that could have been avoided.

In our country, because of an enormous pool of lawful and knowledgeable firearm owners, we have a unique opportunity to teach firearm safety to everyone. One such opportunity is the (National Rifle Association's) Eddie Eagle affordable and effective program for children up through middle school. Unfortunately, gun safety is not a permitted subject in Montgomery County schools.

Beyond that, training and familiarity with firearms for those adults who choose to own them is readily available and hopefully will be passed on to their children and younger acquaintances.

Finally, illegal, irresponsible and downright dangerous firearm use is too often portrayed in popular entertainment. When presented in a casual, almost cartoon environment, how are impressionable youngsters going to be able to realize that this is improper behavior for "real life"?

A firearm lock is a useful tool for an individual to choose to use in his particular circumstances. However, one practice definitely does not fit all, and a government-mandated procedure or product is not necessary or appropriate in all or even in many cases.

Indeed the unintended consequences of additional injuries or fatalities are a real possibility. Recently, a presidential pronouncement sought to enforce the use of "safety locks" by all law enforcement officers. A law enforcement officer is never off duty. Eventually, a lock will mean delayed response to a threat and then a life lost.

The same applies to private citizens. Eventually mandated locks will cost lives. Earlier this year two young people found a handgun improperly stored by an adult relative. Knowing that he was not permitted to play with the gun, one child reached for it to put it away. The gun discharged, striking the other child. The gun had a trigger lock.

If the goal is safety, do the right and reasoned thing: Teach the children and the adults, too. Teach them well and early. Don't attempt to hide, prohibit or demonize guns to kids--that will just excite their curiosity.

If the goal is crime control, that topic must be segregated from safety from accidents;they are in no way related.

A gun lock will mean less than nothing to an intent criminal juvenile. The intent of the Sarah Brady article is clear: to brand guns as evil and deadly, to ignore prosecution of criminals and to harass law-abiding individuals. Her group, Handgun Control Inc., has an agenda, and it is not in the public good.

Robert Culver is co-chairman of Montgomery Citizens for a Safter Maryland, for citizens concerned about safety and self-defense.

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