Kids and Guns and Public Safety

by Diane Dimond on January 27, 2014

In Homes With Guns, Teach Kids Gun Safety!

Uncle Jim used to herd a group of us kids into the car on a sunny Saturday morning and head to an isolated area outside town. His son, little Jim, my two cousins Sandy and Terry and I were full of anticipation.

We were going target shooting – with a real gun – guided every step of the way in gun safety by Uncle Jim. I was about ten or eleven years old, the oldest kid in the group.

“Always keep a gun pointed toward the ground until you are ready to shoot,” Uncle Jim would say as he set up soda cans on a fence post about 20 yards away. “Never, ever point a gun toward another person.”

There on the southwest mesa outside Albuquerque we would wait patiently until it was our turn to handle the pistol. Uncle Jim would stand right behind us and guide the gun into our hands, showing us the proper technique of cradling the hands around the bottom of the gun while placing an index finger on the trigger. Then he’d take a step back as we raised our arms and tell us to shoot when we were ready.

While in an outstretched-arms position I once turned slightly to ask him a question and he urgently leaped forward repeating the mantra, “Never, ever point a gun toward another person.” He steered my arms back to the target.

Training a Child About Proper Gun Use

If only there were an Uncle Jim inside every house with a kid and a gun.

I’ve been thinking about my young gun training ever since hearing news about the school shooting in Roswell, New Mexico – just two hundred miles from where I learned to handle a gun. The first thought that popped into my head was, “Where did that child get access to a gun?”

The 12-year-old got the shotgun from his own home and used it to shoot two of his classmates inside a crowded gymnasium at the Berrendo Middle School.

Thankfully, the result was not as devastating as some other recent school shootings but, at this writing, one of the wounded children, a 12-year-old boy, is still hospitalized in critical but stable condition. The second victim, a 13-year-old-girl, is home now but still has limited use of one arm.

According to police a search of the boy’s home revealed several firearms were kept there – none stored in a lock box.  Police also revealed that the boy actually took time to saw-off the stock of the rifle making it easier to conceal. Again I thought, “Where were the parents while he was doing this?”

Let’s Make Locked Cabinets or Trigger Locks Mandatory

Some will say it’s not fair to question what the parents did or didn’t do. Know that my heart aches for them, as well as the wounded and their families. But who else was responsible for that child getting a gun? Who else was responsible for the safekeeping of that weapon?

It’s easy to say that placing blame solves nothing but without accountability where are we? After the next school shooting involving a minor do we just shrug our shoulders and say nothing different could have been done?

Reader Alice Benson of Tijeras Canyon, New Mexico wrote me after the Roswell shooting. She helps newly released parolees navigate the court system and Benson asked, why don’t schools have just one entrance, manned by an armed guard and a metal detector?

“One might ask: When was the last time we heard of someone getting shot in a courtroom?” Benson wrote. “Why do we guarantee the safety of criminals in a courtroom and not the safety of our most vulnerable resource – our children?”

Good question, Alice. Let’s do the math.

After a school shooting in Cleveland, Ohio a few years ago city fathers set aside 3.3 million dollars to put metal detectors in all 111 public schools and to hire guards to man them. Can your state afford that?

A Good Way to Start the School Day?

The average cost of a good metal detector is upwards of $7,000. Multiply that by the approximately 100,000 public schools in this country. Then, of course, there would be the cost of each guard’s salary. If he or she is armed they would have to be state certified and trained and would certainly ask for more than minimum wage, say, $40,000 or $50,000, per school, per year.

So, I’d say the bottom line answer to the question, Alice, is that there is not enough money in the school budget. And not enough resolve to divert funds from other sources to provide such security at the entrance to every single public school. Right or wrong, it is the reality.

Also, let’s ask ourselves: Is that the atmosphere we want while educating children? Think of the tension and anxiety surrounding airport security checkpoints. Will the kids have to take off their shoes and belts and empty their pockets every morning? Is that how we want our kids to start each day?

Kids Learn What Adults Teach Them

A much easier solution would be for every adult who owns guns to step up and be accountable for it. Even if there is no child in the home, firearms are tops on the list of items burglars look for when they break into a house. Every gun owner should have conscience enough to buy a locked cabinet in which to store every weapon they own. I’m not talking gun control here. I’m talking personal responsibility.

I wonder what Uncle Jim, a life-long resident of New Mexico, would have said about the Roswell school shooting? He’s no longer with us but I bet he’d hang his head, let out a big sigh, and say, “Never, ever point a gun towards another person.”

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 8:16 am

ABQ Journal Reader Linda Trout writes:

“Loved your article in this morning’s Albuquerque Journal. We must somehow make people responsible for the guns that they insist they have the right to keep in their home. AND they must be held accountable when someone is injured / killed by those guns.
Thanks again.”

Reply

Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 8:17 am

ABQ Journal Reader JD Salazar writes:

“Hello-
Thank you for today’s column. You put into words the thoughts I’ve had regarding guns. I also had an Uncle Jim growing up. Despite the fact that it has been 50+ years, I still remember his words.

Sincerely,

JD Salazar

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Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 8:18 am

ABQ Journal Reader Harry Hart writes:

“Hola!
Saturday the “Albuquerque Journal” ran a piece of yours on the OP-ED page above the fold: “Personal responsibility best preventative.”

I loved the fact that you use to target shot with a hand gun under the supervision of your “Uncle Jim!”

My wife and daughter are both H.S. English Teachers in Albuquerque and they both are experienced marksman…!

Hope you’re still shooting at a range, I really believe women should be trained in the use of firearms for self protection, etc.!

Gracias,
Harry Hart
N.E. Heights of ‘burque”

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Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 8:20 am

ABQ Journal Reader DSchuma writes:

“Very good article, but I have heard so many “solutions” to the problems illustrated here that I am convinced NONE OF THEM will work to stop these incidents. To stop an attack it must be discovered BEFORE HAND. Some have been. Of course armed personnel in schools and some other public places would help. I am sure you are aware of the ongoing controversy over
(licensed) carry on college campuses. It might be pointed out the shooting yesterday violated the “no guns” rule on the campus. NO “NO GUN” RULE IS GOING TO BE OBSERVED BY CRIMINALS or those determined to do harm. When are we going to awake to this reality? Licensed individuals are taught that they don’t have a license to “shoot first and ask questions later”. The left wing anti gun people REFUSE to admit this. A carry permit is just that, and using a firearm is a LAST RESORT. But college campuses are among those places totally vulnerable to attackers, and they are just low hanging fruit for assassins. You might be able to get this across in one of your columns.
I wish somebody would. “

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Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 8:20 am

ABQ Journal Reader Alice Benson writes:

“Hi Diane: Thanks for a good article. Do you think if a school hired a retired police officer to monitor kids coming in it would help the situation? That would be a relatively inexpensive solution. It wouldn’t be too scary but would give some protection and perhaps deter some crazy kid who thought he had the place to himself. Regards, Alice “

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Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 8:22 am

Rockland County Times Reader Frank Basile writes:

“Hi, I enjoyed your firearms safety story. I too was instructed at a young age about safe handling of firearms. These rules stayed with me and helped me in the US Army, the NYPD, and the US Air Force.

I often am confused when most schools treat firearms safety as taboo. The National Rifle Association has many excellent firearms safety programs that are available to all schools for no cost. They (NRA) teach among its subjects that children need to not touch a firearm without a qualified adult present.

Lets understand that firearms have been a very important part of our nations history and is part of our culture. Further, during my law enforcement career, I have been witness to many shootings and realized that when most schools had gun clubs, respect was everywhere, and school shootings were non-existing. Again, thank you for a very good news article. If I can be of any assistance, please call on me. “

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Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 8:25 am

ABQ Journal Reader Terry Goldman writes:

“Diane,
Your column demands more responsible behavior
on the part of gun-owners, especially those with children,
but we have already seen that too few live up to those
already proposed responsibilities.
A technological alternative is possible. Some years
ago, I proposed a project at Los Alamos Lab to show the
feasibility of and to create guns that could only be fired by
their registered owners. This involved a since improved
technology of finger/hand identification and a unique firing
mechanism requiring a change in ammunition type which
would only allow the ammunition to be used in this type of
weapon. (The firing mechanism was developed at Los Alamos
to enhance the safety of nuclear weapons.)
The project did not proceed as a parallel effort was
being developed at Sandia Lab. I have not heard of a
positive outcome of that project, but there may well have
been progress.
The objections to such weapons come from police
and the military, but they are not the ones this development
needs to be directed at. It is individual gun owners, who
would be protected from having their own weapons turned
against them (except as clubs!), from their being used by
thieves (at least easily, as they would have to be dismantled
and reprogrammed), or by any unauthorized persons such
as children.
This would be achieved without the use of trigger locks
or safes, allowing for ready accessibility of the weapon, but
only to the authorized user.
It would take time to remove old weapons and replace
them with this new kind, but eventually, we would all be safer
and the checks made on gun sales would have a value and
meaning that they do not now.
I suggest that advocacy for such a change will bear
more fruit than urging the use of gun safes. “

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Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 11:46 pm

Facebook Friend Stacy Brown writes:

“When, oh when, are we going to learn??? There is so much work to do, for sure…”

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Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Facebook Friend Lynne Adrine writes:

“Diane — My concern is about all the kids whose intention is to point their guns at other people because they want to hurt someone. Or worse. What do we do about them?

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Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Facebook Friend Patti Petow writes:

“Let’s get tough on this sickness, fair or not. Parents of underage terrorists should be held accountable no matter what. With innocent lives at stake, we need to go to any extreme to stop the problem.”

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Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Facebook Friend Lisa Marie Rowand writes:

” I lost a friend who was thirteen years old, due to an accidental fatal gun shot by his friend. Parents need to be held accountable when their child gets hold of the weapon, and does harm to another !”

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Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Facebook Friend Kurt G. Kaner writes:

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the two leading causes of death appear to be drowning and traffic accidents. Two children 14 and younger drown each day.

My point is the gun issues are WAY over exposed and abused.

The real issue is responsibility. Can the government enforce or encourage it? That’s not the direction this country is going. Regulate, regulate, regulate, but you WILL not be safer.

Mental illness has been a major issue with the recent shootings, but total silence on that subject.”

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Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 11:52 pm

Reader Lynne Adrine responds:

Kurt Kaner: Total silence on mental health? Maybe in your world. Maybe in a world that uses mental health issues to deflect attention from gun issues. This was aired today:
http://www.cbsnews.com/…/creigh-deeds-on-mental-health…/

Creigh Deeds on mental health legislation: “We’ve got some hard work to do”
http://www.cbsnews.com
Virginia state senator — slashed and stabbed by his son — says “everybody is sympathetic,” but legislators face “powerful” interest groups opposed to legislation

Reply

Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Twitter Pal JamiRhue writes:

” @DiDimond teaching gun safety should go hand in hand with character ed curriculum and the return of praying in school.”

Reply

Diane Dimond January 27, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Twitter Pal MelanieEinstein writes:

” @DiDimond Interesting article. Safety training training or not,guns are easy to get . Unfortunately they fall into the wrong hands..”

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Diane Dimond January 29, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Reader Linda Geha writes:

“Thank you for putting into words my thoughts about gun owners taking “personal responsibility” for their guns by locking them up and keeping them out of the hands of children, thieves and the mentally ill. As you stated in your column, “I’m not talking gun control here. I’m talking personal responsibility.” With rights come responsibilities!”

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whoyou January 29, 2014 at 11:04 pm

guns don’t kill people lady. People kill people. innocent or not, thats life

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Diane Dimond January 30, 2014 at 9:58 am

DD Website reader WhoYou writes:

“Guns don’t kill people lady. People kill people. innocent or not, thats life…”

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Diane Dimond January 31, 2014 at 9:46 am

Twitter Pal JamiRhue writes:

“@DiDimond teaching gun safety should go hand in hand with character ed curriculum and the return of praying in school.”

Reply

Diane Dimond January 31, 2014 at 9:47 am

Twitter Pal MelanieEinstein writes:

“@DiDimond Interesting article. Safety training training or not,guns are easy to get . Unfortunately they fall into the wrong hands.”

Reply

Diane Dimond January 31, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Huffington Post Reader Patricia S. writes:

“I agree that people who own guns need to store them responsibly and keep them away from unsupervised children. However, if you want to use a firearm for self defense it must be unlocked sometimes. If you defend yourself against an intruder you will have to point it at another person. Generally good advice but too absolute.”

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Diane Dimond January 31, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Huffington Post Reader Michaelturn writes:

“A pretty balanced article, however there are security guards in the HS where I work. There are security guards at the college where I watch football games. So our society condones security for youth in high school and college, but somehow the younger age group remains off limits. Also please mention the declining death rate from guns in America- it’s the best kept secret since Area 51.”

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 11:49 am

Huffington Post Reader Debbie Eary writes:

>>”Even if there is no child in the home, firearms are tops on the list of items burglars look for when they break into a house. Every gun owner should have conscience enough to buy a locked cabinet in which to store every weapon they own.”<<

So the burglar who breaks into your house will not do the same with a locked cabinet? Would this deter a kid who plans to cut the stock off your shotgun so he can shoot up the school?

Yes, parents should take reasonable steps to secure their guns but in the end, that is the most they can do.

Much more importantly, parents should teach their parents how to live. How to handle problems, respect for others, and that gratuitous violence is a bad thing would all be relevant topics here. Much of that teaching is done by example more than lecture.”

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 11:50 am

Huffington Post Reader Marek Gazda writes:

“Look at it this way…most burglars don’t spend a lot of time in a house…it’s too risky. Dragging a heavy safe or a gun locker out takes time and a whole lot of effort when there are far easier things to steal. The vast majority of stolen guns (numbers vary between 200k to 600k) are unsecured, therefore easy to steal. For a criminal that’s a good jackpot…a clean gun on the street is easy money. So yes, if someone wants to own a gun(s) then get a gun locker along with trigger locks.”

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 11:51 am

Huffington Post Reader nickygrangery writes:

“My kids stroll into their inner london school … everyone says hi to the caretaker ( who looks exactly like Father Christmas). Theres a lot of hugging. Their school is pretty relaxed so its a lovely unhurried scene, lots of chatting, pet dogs barking goodbye at the gate, mums chatting and running in with forgotten lunches etc ……. Now imagining a metal detector. Airport security. A guard (with a gun). Treating the kids who are aged from 4 – 18 like criminals).Under suspicion.
I’m sorry this is crazy . Your quality of life matters and its the small details which make up the quality of your lives. You non gun owners are certainly paying a heavy price. for your gun owning fellow citizens.”

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 11:52 am

Huffington Post Reader esully63 writes:

“…. Now imagining a metal detector. Airport security. A guard (with a gun). Treating the kids who are aged from 4 – 18 like criminals).Under suspicion.

That’s exactly what adults go through all over the world at airports. Do you feel like a criminal when you fly? So your plan is to criminalize half of the American population because 0.0019% of the population misuses guns. The same 0.0019% that is comprised some where around 85% illegal gun owners.

I am beginning to think the UK wants to disarm America as well, so they might take it back. Seams to me the British lost that battle because citizens were armed, i.e….the Swamp Fox and many others.”

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 11:54 am

Huffington Post Reader dancerctry writes:

“As strongly as I feel about the need of gun laws….I do agree there are RESPONSIBLE gun owners and Uncle Jim sounds like an excellent example of one. Along with universal background checks I think gun sellers (or gift givers) should be required to reminded the buyers or gift getter about the penalties for the various gun related crimes in their state. It won’t stop all crimes but it might make some re-think plans of breaking these laws if they know what the punishment will be. It’s up to the buyer/gift getter to decide if they want to be responsible or not but this means they can’t say they didn’t know and it puts the seller/gift giver in a position where they have given the disclaimer of punishment and provides a reminder about what being a responsible gun owner really means.”

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 11:55 am

Huffington Post Reader esully63 responds:

“Nice idea but the courts in this country are weak. Most people who break gun laws, especially in high crime areas, often do not get punished as they should. They see parole as their toughest sentence. That being said reminding them of the law has little affect since it is not enforced. For an example there was a 17 year old young man in Chicago who had been arrested 17 times already and already had 8 convictions for domestic violence. He pulled a loaded pistol and placed it to the head of a Chicago police officer and for his offense he received parole. If this is how we enforce our laws we have no business even thinking about passing new laws. The new laws will only trip up law abiding citizens trying to obey them while the criminal element will simply continue to skirt them and get off when caught.”

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Huffington Post Reader John F. (Coppertop_jf) writes:

“I have 2 safes that I keep them locked away from my kids. I’ve also taught them to respect and leave them alone. However, I never trust my kids by leaving them out. So what is it you think I’m doing wrong? How have I not been responsible with my firearms?”

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 12:11 pm

John,
I think you are doing everything RIGHT. Thank you for teaching your children two valuable lessons. 1) Every American has the right to own a gun. 2.) Guns should be handled very, very carefully. ~ DD

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Huffington Post Reader Jerry B. (Powerslave_Six_Six_Six) writes:

“Want to stop school shootings?

Forget metal detectors and “safe storage”. Simply stop poisoning every over active boy with SSRI drugs peddled by Big Pharma.

The first person who can name the last school shooter who was NOT hopped up on SSRI drugs will win the prize…”

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Huffington Post Reader Brian H. (JustinAddison) writes:

“You are so totally right on. I too was trained on strict gun safety as a youngster, and I’ve never aimed a firearm at anyone. We can not ignore the fact that a HUGE number of today’s gun owners are ignorant yahoos (often drunk yahoos), who put everyone in danger with the careless storage and handling of weapons they don’t really deserve.”

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Huffington Post Reader Russ Baca (russlbaca) writes:

“If gun owners were more responsible, where would criminals get their guns? Why, they would probably have to go straight and get jobs like everyone else instead of relying on people with legal access to guns to leave them in unlocked homes and cars, internet sales, private sales, gun shows, and straw sales. Gun responsibility….what a concept!”

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Diane Dimond February 3, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Huffington Post Reader Lee C. writes:

“We all probably can do a better job of security to protect our property. However, blaming the victim for a thief of property is not reasonable. Both education for children and keeping guns not in use locked when children can be around are good ideas. Not things that government should mandate a one size fits all solution. We should all demand that every high school offer gun usage and safety classes as a required course.”

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Diane Dimond February 5, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Huffington Post Reader Mike Remington writes:

“Not gonna lie, I skimmed the article. But I’m pretty much in agreement with the main point.

If you own a gun, be responsible with it.

Fortunately, MOST people are. UNfortunately, those aren’t the people that make the news.

This isn’t a problem that you can legislate away. This is about education and practice.”

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Diane Dimond February 5, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Huffington Post Reader Cargo Squid writes:

“You want accountability?

Then every parent should teach gun safety, safe gun handling, and what to do when a kid encounters a gun.

No more hoplophobia allowed.”

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Travis February 17, 2014 at 11:08 am

Any time some one, especially a child, loses their life due to violence, it is tragic. Personal responsibility is paramount if this is going to stop. The problem isn’t guns, drugs or alcohol. Schools teach sex education and even pass out out condoms. We, as a whole, idolize sports figures or celebrities and show off their exploits and expect our children to act differently than their(our) heroes.
Then, we don’t punish criminals. People talk about the need for new laws when there are plenty of laws that never get enforced.
Gun control laws are like a lock on your house. It only works on honest, law abiding citizens. Criminals aren’t going to obey a law, just as they aren’t going to let a lock stop them from breaking in your house.

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