Rep. Patmon's HB563 (Mandatory "Safe" Storage of Firearms) is based on several anti-gun myths
by Chad D. Baus
Rep. Bill Patmon (D-10) has introduced HB563, gun control legislation that would "prohibit any person from storing or leaving a firearm in the person's residence unless the firearm is secured in safe storage or rendered inoperable by a tamper-resistant lock or other safety device if the person knows or reasonably should know that a minor is able to gain access to the firearm and to provide criminal penalties if a minor gains unauthorized access to a firearm not so stored or rendered inoperable."
Unfortunately, this bill, filed as a knee-jerk reaction to a recent tragedy in which a 3 year-old child in Ohio found a gun and died from a self-inflicted wound, is based on a number of myths, and would be impotent at solving the problems it seeks to address.
From the publication Gun Facts:
Myth: "Safe storage" laws protect people
Fact: 15 states that passed "safe storage" laws saw 300 more murders, 3,860 more rapes, 24,650 more robberies, and over 25,000 more aggravated assaults in the first five years. On average, the annual costs borne by victims averaged over $2.6 billion as a result of lost productivity, out-of-pocket expenses, medical bills, and property losses. "The problem is, you see no decrease in either juvenile accidental gun deaths or suicides when such laws are enacted, but you do see an increase in crime rates." 271
Fact: Only five American children under the age of 10 died of accidents involving handguns in 1997.272 Thus, the need for "safe storage" laws appears to be low.
Fact: In Merced California, an intruder stabbed three children to death with a pitchfork. The oldest child had been trained by her father in firearms use, but could not save her siblings from the attacker because the gun was locked away to comply with the state's "safe storage" law.273
Myth: Trigger locks will keep children from accidentally shooting themselves
Fact: 31 of 32 models of gun locks tested by the government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission could be opened without the key. According to their spokesperson, "We found you could open locks with paper clips, a pair of scissors or tweezers, or you could whack them on the table and they would open."347
Fact: 85% of all communities in America recorded no juvenile homicides in 1995, and 93.4% of communities recorded one or no juvenile arrests (not convictions) for murder.348
Fact: In 1996, even though there were around 80 million people who owned a firearm, there were only 44 accidental gun deaths for children under age 10, or about 0.0001%.349
Fact: California has a trigger lock law and saw a 12% increase in fatal firearm accidents in 1994. Texas doesn't have one and experienced a 28% decrease in the same year.350 Also: trigger-locks render a firearm inaccessible for timely self-defense.
Fact: Children as young as seven (7) years old have demonstrated that they can pick or break a trigger lock; or that they can operate a gun with a trigger lock in place.351 Over half of non-criminal firearm deaths for children over age seven are suicides, so trigger locks are unlikely to reduce these deaths.
Fact: If criminals are deterred from attacking victims because of the fear that people might be able to defend themselves, gunlocks may in turn reduce the danger to criminals committing crime, and thus increase crime. This problem is exacerbated because many mechanical locks (such as barrel or trigger locks) also require that the gun be stored unloaded.
Myth: More children are hurt with guns than by any other means
Fact: Barely more than 1% of all unintentional injury deaths for children in the U.S. between ages 0-14 are from firearms.362
Fact: The Center for Disease Control, a federal agency, agrees. According to them, in 1998, children 0-14 years died from the following causes in the U.S. 363
Myth: If it saves the life of one child, it is worth it
Fact: Firearms in private hands are used an estimated 2.5 million times (or 6,849 times each day) each year to prevent crime;372 this includes rapes, aggravated assaults, and kidnapping. The number of innocent children protected by firearm owning parents far outweighs the number of children harmed.
If Rep. Patmon truly wishes to make a difference in the lives of children, he should start by supporting efforts to educate children on what to do if they find a gun.
"STOP! Don't Touch! Leave the area! Tell an adult!"
These simple commands have been taught to over 23 million children via the the Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program. When children are taught what to do if they find a gun, accidents like these are much less likely to happen.
While I believe this important material should be mandated to be taught in every classroom in Ohio, the ultimate responsibility for teaching children what to do if they find a gun rest with parents. Parents must teach this to their children whether or not they keep a firearm in their home, for the simple fact that the child will not always be in the home. As this latest example shows once again, the potential exists for children to come into unauthorized, unsupervised contact with a firearm, and only proactive education by their parents can prevent a negative outcome when they do.
Teaching children what to do if they find a gun is no different than teaching a child that ovens should always be considered hot, that matches and lighters are not to be played with, or that they should not talk to strangers. Most of us do not make a habit of keeping strangers in our homes, yet no one would debate the importance of educating our children about potential predators.
Believe it or not, there is actually a group of people involved in fighting against efforts to educate children on this important information: gun ban extremists.
In 2001, a group of nurses evaluated more than 80 gun accident prevention programs designed to help kids learn what to do if they find a gun, and published the results of their study in the Journal of Emergency Nursing Online. The study named The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program as one of the very best. Additionally, Eddie Eagle has been endorsed by the National Safety Council, the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Sheriff's Association. Yet because this program was devised by people involved with the National Rifle Association (NRA), gun ban extremists do everything they can to make certain that children are not taught the important lessons this curriculum contains.
The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program has no agenda other than accident prevention - ensuring that children stay safe should they encounter a gun. Despite the fact that the program prohibits the use of Eddie Eagle mascots anywhere that guns are present, gun ban extremists have taken to disparaging Eddie Eagle as "Joe Camel with feathers".
Indeed, because of her hatred for the NRA, Toledo's Toby Hoover, who often appears to be a one-woman show at the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, either lied or betrayed her ignorance about gun safety (a topic about which journalists insist on presenting her as an expert) about the proven effectiveness of this program to The Columbus Dispatch in 2007, saying "There isn't a program out there that has proven effective."
"There isn't a program out there that has proven effective." The nurses behind the Journal of Emergency Nursing Online study heartily disagree.
Unfortunately, the myth created by the gun ban crowd, who claim to be proponents of safety ("if it saves the life of just one child..."), has taken root in many places.
In 2003, when the Ohio legislature had the good wisdom to set aside funds for elementary schools to purchase curriculum materials for The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program, the extremists were deeply critical:
"Just like the alcohol and tobacco industries have worked to find ways to reach out to underage consumers, Eddie Eagle is one component of the NRA's efforts to reach out to underage gun consumers," [Violence Policy Center Executive Director Josh] Sugarmann said.
Evidence that the lies told by gun ban extremists' had taken root was revealed when the funds the General Assembly set aside for schools were pulled after one budget cycle - too few schools took advantage of it.
It is because of comments like Hoover's and Sugarmann's that I place a large share of the blame for accidents on gun ban extremists, who are putting their desire to weaken a political enemy ahead of children's lives.
It is important to note that while voluntarily choosing to lock firearms should certainly be among the safe storage options parents consider, efforts by the state to mandate such a practice are dangerous and ineffective. According to analysis by Dr. John R. Lott Jr. and as published in his book The Bias Against Guns:
Safe storage laws have no impact on accidental gun deaths...
The impact of safe storage laws is consistent with existing research indicating that the guns most likely to be used in accidental shootings are owned by the least law-abiding citizens and thus are the guns least likely to be locked up after passage of the law. The safe storage laws thus increase crime, yet fail to produce any significant change in accidental deaths or suicides.
The answer truly is education, and if Rep. Patmon is truly concerned about helping prevent accidents, he would drop gun control measures like HB563, and instead work to ensure that Ohio schools be required to teach all children what to do if they see a gun.
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman, an NRA-certified firearms instructor and the proud father of two Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program graduates.