Gun Safety: Accidents are Preventable
SAN ANGELO, TX — Within the last 30 days, the Concho Valley saw two accidental shootings, one in Tom Green County involving a woman who was accidentally shot by her boyfriend (our report here), and another in San Angelo involving a 15-year-old who was accidentally shot in the head while playing with a firearm.
Firearms safety is a national issue. In 2016, there were 2,195 reported unintentional shootings in the U.S and another 721 this year so far, according to the FBI and The Gun Violence Archive, an online data base.
LIVE! reached out local law enforcement, gun shop owners, and concealed carry instructors to learn more about gun safety and what gun owners and parents can do to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
Ken Thomas, a former law enforcement officer and owner of Texas Gun Shop in San Angelo education is the key to preventing disaster.
“A lot of these accidents are preventable by education. We need to teach this in schools just like we teach health, drug education, we need to give gun education." Thomas said, “There’s just too much misinformation. Its not a video game, we don't get a second chance. You can’t withdraw that bullet. You can’t hit rewind, its a done deal.”
“Gun education and frank discussions are vital. Children and teens are naturally curious about firearms. Because of this, they may be tempted to ‘play' with a firearm they find," said spokeswoman for the San Angelo Police Department Tracy Gonzalez . They encourage parents to teach their children to not look for firearms in their own home or anyone else's, and should they find one, not to touch it and immediately tell an adult.
Despite living the age of information, our exposure to firearms is limited to cinema and video games. For some, a practical knowledge base surrounding firearms is limited at best, while exposure to them in some degree is normal.
For example, according to this 2016 report from the Entertainment Software association, 65 percent of American households own a gaming console of some kind, and, according to the same report, for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017, the top selling video games all involved fictional use of a firearm as a central part of the play mechanics. In cinema, 89 percent of Americans over the age of 8 take in some form of movie content on a regular basis according to a study conducted in 2015 by the Motion Picture Association. Furthermore, around 94 percent of movies produced since 1985 involve firearms in some context. Since 2000, 12 of the last 17 years top box office movies have involved fictional use of a firearm to forward the narrative. Yet, only a third of American households actually contain fire arms.
This means that at least twice as many Americans are exposed to a glamorized, vilified, or overly normalized version of a firearm than those that are more likely to experience a firearm in reality. As a result, many individuals, particularly children, fail to understand the realities surrounding guns and the dangers therein, according to 20 year veteran License to Carry instructor, Daryl Presley, and the San Anglo Police Department.
“We need to understand that any time you are dealing with a firearm you are dealing with absolutely deadly, serious business. There is an extreme amount of destructive potential in a firearm. ” Presley said. He noted that we teach practical safety knowledge such as looking both ways before crossing the street, and that firearm safety should be taught in the same way.
Parents and teachers that are interested in educating their child on what to do when faced with a firearm can look in to the Eddie Eagle project from the NRA. But, to many parents, the issue of gun safety may seem foreign since they do not possess any guns in their home, but 1 in 3 households in America do, according to the ATF. So, there is a high probability that your child is going to come in to contact with a gun at some point, be it with a friend at the shooting range, an invitation to go hunting, or coming across it by accident.
Presley, Thomas, and at the SAPD, Gonzalez hold that the vast majority of accidents involving firearms are preventable with good education and safe practice, but, having physical safeguards in place is critical to protecting children from unsupervised interaction. If you have a firearm in the home, Presley says to assume that a small child will do everything in their power to gain access to it, and act accordingly. That means avoiding leaving a loaded gun unattended for any period of time, and never under any circumstance leave a firearm in the presence of a child unsupervised.
“Gun owners have a responsibility to ensure that guns are stored where they are inaccessible to children or other unauthorized persons,” SAPD said. According to law enforcement, hiding guns in a closet, drawer or similar location is not considered safe storage. Safe storage means having multiple safeguards that provide extra security against undesired or inappropriate use. “They (gun owners) also need to consider that if they keep guns easily-accessible and ready for immediate use during a life-or-death confrontation, the gun can fall into the hands of others who are ill-experienced (adolescents, juveniles, etc.).” In addition to a certain level of ethical and moral responsibility, both federal and Texas state law hold the owner of a firearm accountable if it causes harm to a child due to not being stored safely.
For gun owners looking for immediate solutions to keep their love ones safe with guns in the home, there are lots of easy steps to take. For example, small metal gun safes with combination locks can be purchased for as little as $20. Gun owners are strongly encouraged to not store firearms while they are loaded, and avoid storing firearms in the same space as ammunition. In addition, the San Angelo Police Department, the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Department, and Texas Gun Shop have free gun locks available. Gun locks are simply devices that once placed on the firearm, render it unable to discharge.