According to accounts I have seen, a large number of these people crowding into gun shops are first-time gun buyers.
I am all for more people becoming gun owners. However, there is a caveat: I am also all for gun owners knowing how to safely use and store their firearms.
Sound strange? Most of us in the gun community feel the same way. So does the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (the gun industry’s trade and lobbying group).
According to the online data complied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from accidental firearm discharges have plunged 83% since 1981 (the earliest year available). In the 20 years since Project ChildSafe was started, accidental deaths have dropped nearly 53%. In 2018, there were 458 deaths attributed to gun accidents. In the entire nation.
We don’t want to see that number increase. But a bunch of newbies whose knowledge of guns comes from the media and movies and who now have purchased guns for the most stressful situation that a gun owner could face and who think instant access is more important than prevention of easily avoided accidents is a recipe for tragedy.
It would be nice to see Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, the Giffords Law Center, and the Brady Center swallow their pride, come out and promote Project ChildSafe. After all, none of them have anything like it.
They might even push for legislation that requires gun dealers to provide local sources of gun safety training to every gun buyer. A couple of years ago, I wrote the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and asked if the agency could institute such a rule. The ATF told me that it did not have the legal power to impose such a requirement.
In fact, there could even be a space on the ATF Form 4473 where the buyer acknowledges receiving safety information.
It is quite possible to have guns in a household with virtually no risk of accident. The rules are very simple:
- Every gun is always loaded until you personally examine it to be sure it is clear. NO EXCEPTIONS! Every new firearm comes with a manual that includes instructions on how to do this.
- Always read the manual. Always.
- Firearms should be stored safely, especially in homes with children. This means unloaded and stored with a safety lock or in a locked storage cabinet or safe. New firearms come with a safety lock. Use it.
- Ammunition should be stored separately.
- Firearms kept loaded in the home for self-defense or home defense should be in one of two places: On your person or in a quick-access safe. NO EXCEPTIONS! A purse, nightstand, or desk drawer is not on your person.
It’s safe to say there are about 80 million American gun owners. There are 18.9 million active concealed carry permits and there are 16 states that do not require a permit to carry a handgun.
There is no epidemic of gun violence. There is an epidemic of suicide that has driven up the rate of gun deaths, but guns are actually used less often in suicides than was once the case.
In order to avoid a jump in tragedies, everyone really needs to be pushing for new (and existing) gun owners to get some training and at least a few rounds under their belt before they rely on a firearm for defense.