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Gun Safety

By Lydia Long PhD. | March 1, 2013

The FBI estimates that there are over 200 million privately-owned firearms in the US.  No one knows the exact number of firearms owned by private citizens in the US, because most states don’t require registration.  According to the latest data from the CDC , in 2010, there were 31,513 deaths from firearms, distributed as follows: Suicide 19,308; Homicide 11,015; Accident 600. This makes firearms injuries one of the top ten causes of death in the U.S. Firearm injuries remain a leading cause of death in the U.S., particularly among youth.  The number of non-fatal injuries is considerable–over 200,000 per year in the U.S.  .    However, the question is not do we have the right to own guns.  Instead, it should be, how do we reduce deaths from firearms?  While you have a right to own a firearm, you also carry the responsibility and duty to possess and use it in a safe manner. {{more}}   I have in my mind an image of two people with a rifle between them both pulling, one yelling “MINE!” the other yelling “NO GUNS!”  Both are totally unaware of the bystander who is shot as they tug the rifle back and forth.    In the absolute frenzy over gun “control” we overlook gun safety, responsibility and common sense.    I grew up in a family who had firearms and still do. I learned to shoot at an early age, and had it DRUMMED into me that no loaded gun was ever ‘safe’.  That has given me a healthy respect for guns and safety.   Regardless of why you own the firearm, YOU are responsible.   Throughout the years we have had numerous public safety campaigns. Only YOU can stop forest fires.  Don’t drink and drive. Buckle up for safety. Very effective campaigns that lowered many accidents and were so effective at stopping forest fires, we had a backlash of fires from the elimination of natural burns.    And while the argument wages over what kind of firearm can you own and where can you carry it, the overriding safety concerns are ignored.  Why don’t we stop arguing about the weapons and instead spend money on public safety campaigns regarding firearms? Guns are not toys and we all need to grow up and focus on safety.   The NRA has three Basic Gun Safety Rules which they consider fundamental in any situation. It is important to know these rules should guide any situation where firearms are present.   Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. Be mindful of the fact that a bullet can      penetrate ceilings, floors, walls, windows, and doors.   Always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.   Always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. You can pass all the laws you want, but personal responsibility and gun safety need to be THE priority.  There are millions of firearms in homes across America.  And while it is your Constitutional right to own them, it’s also your duty and personal responsibility to control access and make gun safety a priority.   We have millions of weapons in private hands.  No legislation is going to change that or change the American culture that supports gun ownership. But, we can raise people’s awareness of gun safety.  Do you have a firearm in your home? Is it properly secured? Can your child or your teenager access it? Are you the person who ‘stores’ your handgun in your night stand and then leaves it there when you go to work?  Do you have a gun safe, gun locks and your ammo stored separately?  You can argue when, where and why regarding firearms all day. But, bottom line…SAFETY FIRST.  That is commonsense.   So while the argument wages on over what kind of firearm you want to own and where you want to carry it vs. “no guns, no way” the ‘innocent bystander’ gets shot.   Lydia Long, PhD. is a Criminal Justice professor for McMurry University.