College of American Pathologists press release fails to see the whole picture
By Larry S. Moore
Merriam-Webster defines Pathologist as “a specialist in pathology; specifically : one who interprets and diagnoses the changes caused by disease in tissues and body fluids.”
The story, Children and Gun Safety: Education Is the Key is currently on biz.yahoo.com and the PRNewswire. While this story is better than most media advice pieces regarding guns, it does stop well short of the whole story. It is interesting to note that the information on gun storage could be taken from just about any state's hunter education program. Even more interesting is the advice in the next to last paragraph. Knowledgeable readers will quickly see this is taken directly from the NRA Eddie Eagle program
(Don’t touch, tell an adult). So why can't the pathologists give credit where it is due - to the real gun experts? Or even better provide links so readers who want more information know where to find it.
The story seems written from the perspective of protecting children from guns in their homes. A larger challenge is to educate those children whose parents don't own guns or even are afraid of guns. This may be the most curious and at risk group of youngsters. The pathologists suggest asking your neighbors if there are guns in their homes. On the surface this seems like a good idea. However, I take offense. Lots of things in home pose dangers to our children. Based on the continuing decline of firearms accidents, guns are a very minor part. I do not imply that we should take firearm safety lightly. However, parents should be asking a lot of questions about where their children are playing and what they are doing. The story mentions gun cleaning solvents but does not mention the risk posed by household cleaners or perhaps mice poison, paints, gasoline, etc. What about animals in the house from the common dogs and cats to the exotics that many people like? Most parents probably let their children play various types of ball, tag, or even badminton with their neighbors. Yet the injury rate with these games is higher than firearms.
The story also addresses firearms only from one perspective, hunting. "If you have a gun in your home, particularly if hunting is an important part of family recreation, teach your children to use guns safely and responsibly." The pathologists seem to ignore the possibilities of having a gun for self-protection or for target shooting. Yet we know many people, who never hunt, enjoy various types of firearm recreational shooting or keep a gun for protection. Could it be the story is trying to quietly suggest that hunting is the only reason to own a gun?
And now, with apologies to Paul Harvey, click on 'Read More' for "the rest of the story".
The rest of the story is that if you own guns, educate your children. Remove the mystery. And take the kids shooting whether at a club, range, or the back forty. Get the kids out so they understand proper handling and safety with firearms. Shoot a head of cabbage or a jug of water. It will make a lasting impression on the power of firearms.
What age should this be done? That is a parental decision. By the age of three my children knew to ask several questions whenever I came home from hunting or shooting. The first question was, "Is it unloaded Daddy?". By the time they were five, they were demonstrating how to check if the gun is unloaded. When they could do that, then they were rewarded with being allowed to help Daddy clean his guns, wipe them off, and put them away. Sometime around the ages of 5 or 6 they had been to the range and had an opportunity to shoot. Before they were ten, they had been through a hunter education course and to live-fire training classes for youngsters.
After a child shooting accident, the news typically displays a grieving mother saying she doesn’t understand. “We never even talk about guns in our home.” Few people ever think how sad that comment is. When a child drowns do we not hear, “I don't understand. We don't own a pool. I'm afraid of the water. I never let my kid take a bath. We've never even discussed water safety." Everyone would think she's nuts. Substitute fire and never discussing fire safety and same applies. Substitute firearms and for some reason it plays on the news like it makes sense. We are talking about the same thing. Children are naturally curious of fire, water, and guns. It's a parents job to educate children to the point they are safe when they test the waters.
The result of these efforts provided several dividends. First, I did not have to worry about my children and guns, no matter where they went. Second, I have enjoyed many days in the field and at the range with my children. Even as they are now grown and starting families of their own, we continue to share a bond of hunting and shooting. Wedding showers, bachelor parties, and even baby showers have been opportunities to enjoy shooting. The men in our family attend the baby showers. We go out to the farms and shoot some trap. The entry fee is a large box of diapers. If the women want to join the shooting, we welcome them too. Their price of admission is to bring us a piece of cake. Shooting is a wonderful family affair. Something tells me the pathologists don't have a clue.
That’s OK. I probably wouldn’t do a great job advising you on “disease in tissues and body fluids” either. The key difference being I’m smart enough not to try.