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Guns II

I have been writing about the dangers of guns and children inhabiting the same house or the same community since 1971.

I am getting weary of finding new ways to say the same thing, “Guns are not healthy for children.”

Recent events in Tucson where is based raise once again the gun issue for me and, indeed, all of the world who watched TV coverage of a shooter killing 6 and wounding 19 including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. (see Newsletter Archive: Congresswoman Giffords)

Here are my same-old disclaimers. Though I do not own or shoot a gun, my late husband was a gun-owner who loved hunting, we always had guns in our home, our children were all taught to shoot and be responsible gun-owners. I am not trying to spoil the fun of hunters or target-shooters.

But the data are still sobering. Although the rule, EMPTY IT OUT, LOCK IT UP! Is followed by many, it is not universally followed. Children continue to be exposed to loaded guns. Only 30% of gun-owning families reported all guns were stored unloaded and locked up. Children in these homes are at risk of accidental injury or death, or murdering a sibling or friend which changes one’s life forever. The risk of fatal domestic violence and suicide is also higher in those who have guns in the home.

Comparisons with other nations are striking. The US leads the pack by a mile when we look at average firearms per 100 people and percent of homicides by firearms.

“We have nearly 9 guns for every 10 people and about 9 out of 10 of our homicides are committed with one of those guns. No other country even comes close.” (New York Times. January 22, 2011)

We live in an open society. We expect to go to the market to shop or meet our congresswoman in peace and safety. Most of the time we can do so. But periodically a community suffers the consequences of an unholy trinity: a semi-automatic weapon, ammunition that permits multiple lethality, and mental illness.

It is a myth that guns protect people. Let me quote a Letter to the Editor of the Arizona Daily Star on January 23, 2011 pointing out that those who disarmed the shooter did not use guns and that an armed citizenry is not the answer. “Guns don’t protect people, people protect people by their individual actions and the laws they enact.”

It is a myth that the Second Amendment should be given more weight than a sensible dialogue that leads to changes in how guns are purchased that can protect people.

Buying a gun is not an emergency.

It is NOT a myth that we experience horrendous gun tragedies, mourn our losses, and then apse into what Frank Rich of the New York Times calls, “a return to business as usual followed by our national amnesia.”

I know I will get emails galore protesting this ParenTip and I will lose a few followers but if I convince one parent in one gun owner’s household to lock the guns and ammo separately it is worth it. And if I prevent a few cases of “national amnesia” maybe we can begin to do something constructive about guns in an open society.