February 18, 2009

Cornered Cat

The internet is still a wild and woolly place. There are uncountable corners of the worst corruption and malfeasance the human animal is capable of. Fortunately, there are also bright, shiny places where facts are facts, reality is faced head on, and truth is the currency of the realm. I like to think this blog is one of those places, but since I'm the writer, my opinion is highly biased.

On the other hand, there is Cornered Cat. Wow, talk about a ray of sunshine in a dark world. Just when I had begun to fear common sense had fled the scene once and for all, I find a mother of five who not only uses firearms to keep herself safe, she teaches her kids how to stay safe, too. "Childproof...isn't!" is the first in a series of twelve articles about teaching children as young as four years old how to be safe around firearms.

Last October, 8 year-old Christopher Bizilj died when his father handed him a fully loaded Uzi then told him to point and shoot. I have no idea why the father thought an 8 year-old could safely handle an Uzi. Even for an adult, the Uzi is a difficult weapon for an unskilled person to control. Most adult training classes begin the first live fire exercise with the instructor's hands on the forearms of the adult student the first time they pull the trigger. The same thing should have been done for Christopher. Better yet, the father should have let Christopher practice with a .22 for a few more years before placing an unloaded Uzi in his hands and teaching him how to use it.

Tens of millions of parents in the United States teach their children how to safely handle firearms and regularly take them shooting. According to the CDC, 37 children aged 14 and under died from firearms related accidents in 2005 (the last year for which data is available). This is far below the tens of thousands figure you'll find quoted by the Brady Campaign and other anti-gun advocacy groups, but still far too high for me. There is no excuse for adults to allow children access to firearms before the children are ready to use them. There is no excuse for gangsters to hide fully loaded weapons in playgrounds, no excuse for criminals to drop their weapons in school parking lots, and so on. Nonetheless, these things happen. The only sure way to keep your children safe is to teach them safe handling.

Teach them. I know it's time-consuming and annoying. I also know that far too many of us want our children to walk through life in a kind of daydream of innocence and then suddenly become responsible, law-abiding, well-balanced adults on their eighteenth birthday. Well, I have some bad news for you. Children are not sweet, innocent little creatures of heaven. Children are adults in training and you, the parent or guardian, are their personal trainer.

Riding a bicycle, driving a car, handling a firearm. These are all skills involving inanimate objects. These are all skills your children need to learn how to do safely. Their life really does depend on it.