By Chuck Nottingham
by Chuck Nottingham
The Havre Daily News
Friday, May 14
Latest estimates are 80 million Americans own guns. Among other contributing factors, aftermaths of our tragic children-attacking-children crimes spotlight owners' storage of firearms and ammunition.
Owner accountability for reasonable security measures to secure guns from unauthorized people, especially children, may be long overdue.
We old-timers are fond of reminiscing:
On our farm, guns stood unmolested in an open rack in the separator-room. Loose cartridges for any gun ever owned mixed together in several half-open drawers below.
Herding milk cows across Highway 10 to and from the Yellowstone pasture, I always took a .22 or .410 and a pocketful of shells hoping for a pot bird or bunny.
In other homes, lots of guns leaned in closet corners with ammunition on shelves. We like to say we were taught right, because we survived those lax practices. Maybe so, but many youngsters were not taught well and did not survive. Records show enough guns and ammo left those racks and closets to kill significant numbers of kids.
When I became an NRA firearms instructor in '61 and a FWP hunter educator in '64, separate storage of guns and ammunition was one of the ten commandments of gun safety -- locks strongly advised.
Better voluntary storage methods evolved as education spread, and the National Safety Council (statistics far more factual that fanciful estimates by Handgun Control, Inc.) noted steady decreases in per-capita accidental child deaths by guns.
But now, accidental is no longer the total concern. Now, some children join hardened criminal elements to steal or illegally obtain firearms for mayhem against playmates and schoolmates.
Understandably, storage habits of gun owners is under scrutiny. Some won't like it, but severe consequences for poor gun management are imminent.
A much-maligned NRA has always pushed for safe gun storage to save lives.
Last week, American Shooting Sports Council and National Shooting Sports Foundation agreed, among other accords, to support recommendations to raise the minimum age to own handguns and to increase culpability standards for allowing illegal gun access.
Gun organizations and manufacturers are essential to the process, as not all ideas and methods are effective or even safe. The recent controversial push for a trigger-lock law is an example. Some trigger-guard clasps work well on certain guns, but subject others to severe risk of unintentional discharge. Some trigger-locks render duty and protection firearms useless when needed most.
What should we gun owners do?
First, store UNLOADED guns and ammunition separately. Both LOCKED. Locking wood-and-glass wall racks and cabinets show guns beautifully while keeping curious little hands off. They minimize dust and promote frequent inventory. But flimsy locks need to be augmented. Cabinets themselves need to be anchored to architecture. Rubber-coated steel cables can then secure guns to embedded eye-bolts.
Likewise, closet guns should be shackled to wall-studs, and closet doors key-locked.
Ultimately, gun vaults may be the best investments gun owners can make.
For duty and protection guns, small rapid-access gun safes are available to meet specific needs.
Women & Guns, Guns & Ammo, and American Guardian are three of many publications featuring individual locking devices, small and large safes, hide-away construction, and other problem-solving ideas for safer protection and storage.
Next, control keys and combinations.
Then inventory often. A card for each gun should include make, model and serial number. Photos are helpful. Cards are preferable to lists, as serial numbers of secure guns remain confidential.
A start is ordering Firearms Responsibility in the Home from National Shooting Sports Foundation, (203) 426-1320, 11 Mile Hill Road, Newtown, CT 06470. The brochure discusses storage of sporting guns, firearms kept for home security, instructions to children, and a firearms responsibility contract for kids.
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