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.