Originally published in The Progress News by Erin Golden •
Gun ownership is among the biggest topics of this election season, heating up emotions and arguments on all sides of the issue.
But no matter where you stand on the topic, there’s one thing nearly everyone can agree on: It’s crucial to store and secure a gun safely, particularly if children are around.
“The most important responsibility of a gun owner is to keep your gun from falling into the wrong hands,” says Bill Brassard, senior director of communications for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “There is no excuse for not securing the firearm when it is not in use.”
Brassard’s organization, a firearms industry trade group, runs a safety campaign called Project ChildSafe. He says it’s important for all gun owners—regardless of whether a child is in the home or not—to think about strong safety measures, because theft or misuse by an adult can also be a problem.
LOCK IT UP
Storage options can range from a cable lock, where a cable runs through the barrel of the gun and requires a key to be unlocked and used, to a full-size gun safe. There are also smaller and cheaper gun boxes and gun safes that require a key or code to be opened—and some that are designed for quicker access. Those options can range in price from $10 or $20 to more than $300.
The most expensive—and most secure—option is a full-sized gun safe. Some now come with biometric technology, which allows the safe to only open for specific people based on a fingerprint scan. High-tech safes can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Brassard says people who opt for a lock or portable safe with keys need to be careful about where they store those keys. And the same goes for the guns themselves, which he said should always be secured before they are tucked away.
“Hiding a gun is not safe storage—that doesn’t fit the safe-storage parameters that gun owners should follow,” he says. “Children are curious and they might find a gun in the home that you think is safely hidden.”
TALK TO YOUR KIDS
In addition to keeping guns in a safe, secure location, Brassard said it’s important to talk to kids about what to do if they find a gun—and then remind them, again and again.
For younger children, he says, the message should be never to touch a gun—and to leave the area if they find one. For older kids, there might be a similar lesson, though with more nuance. Brassard says at an older age, children might have more questions about when guns could be used or how they could get involved in hunting education classes.
And, according to Brassard, those talks are important even in households that don’t own or use firearms, because children could come across a gun while in the home of a friend or relative.
“We encourage parents to have that conversation on a regular basis,” he says. “It’s not a one-time conversation.”
Originally produced by Wisconsin State Journal editorial •
A couple of simple gun locks could have prevented the shooting death of Weston School District principal John Klang a decade ago this week.
That’s why the State Journal editorial board launched a gun-lock giveaway after a student shot and killed Klang on Sept. 29, 2006, at the rural school near Cazenovia, about 70 miles northwest of Madison.
Neither the shotgun nor the handgun the 15-year-old shooter took from his father’s house and brought to Weston High School were equipped with steel-cable locks or other devices that prevent guns from being loaded or fired.
The State Journal’s campaign back then resulted in nearly 8,000 gun locks being distributed for free at hospitals across south-central Wisconsin. That means thousands of guns in Wisconsin are more secure today, helping to deter accidental and criminal violence.
But too many gun owners still store their firearms dangerously. Fewer than half of parents with guns in their homes, for example, keep their weapons locked and unloaded, according to the Harvard Injury Control Resource Center. Though a lot of parents hide their guns, a survey found that 70 percent of children with guns in their homes reported knowing where the weapons are, and half of those kids said they had handled the guns.
Most handguns are sold with gun locks. Yet many owners disregard or lose the devices. A sturdy gun lock costs as little as $10. And many police departments — including district stations in Madison — distribute them for free.
So there’s no excuse for not using one. Responsible gun owners should have gun locks on all of their firearms.
Some gun enthusiasts contend a lock defeats the purpose of a weapon. They want to be able to quickly pull their gun from a drawer and potentially use it to impede an intruder.
But disabling a gun lock should take just seconds for an experienced owner, and the technology of locks is constantly improving.
Ten years ago at Weston High School, a freshman brought two guns to school. The teenager’s father had stored them in his bedroom and in a cabinet, which the student pried open with a screwdriver.
At a minimum, steel-cable locks on those guns would have slowed the student, forcing him to think longer about what he was doing. The locks also could have stopped the guns from being loaded and fired.
A school janitor wrestled away the shotgun from the student. Klang then tackled the teenager, knocking the handgun away — but not before being mortally wounded by gunfire.
Weston students, staff and community membersremembered Klang on Thursday during a ceremony at the school. Klang made education fun and believed in all of his students, many of whom he protected with his life.
The anniversary of Klang’s death should prompt every gun owner in Wisconsin to ensure his or her firearms are locked and secure.