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In the News

Locking out tragedy (editorial)
The Denver Post, 10/12/2000

Copyright 2000 The Denver Post Corporation
The Denver Post

October 12, 2000 Thursday 2D EDITION


LENGTH: 420 words

HEADLINE: EDITORIAL Locking out tragedy

Word that thousands of free gun safety locks distributed across the country - including in Colorado - may be defective once again brings into focus the need to keep firearms away from unsupervised children.

In a separate development, one gun-safety group reported Wednesday that some types of non-homicide gun deaths among youngsters have increased. On Tuesday, about 300 law enforcement agencies that have been handing out the 400,000 Chinese-made cable locks provided by the National Shooting Sports Foundation were warned that some locks could pop open. A Tennessee sheriff's deputy discovered the defect.

Unlike some trigger locks that can allow a loaded gun to fire if dropped, cable locks, threaded through the barrel or action of a weapon, usually are an effective and inexpensive way to kid-proof a gun.

That's a desirable goal, considering the report by Common Sense About Kids and Guns that showed non-homicide gun deaths (accidents and suicides) only decreased 4 percent, from 1,643 the previous year to 1,577 in 1998. Although overall firearms deaths of young people up to age 19 declined 10 percent in 1998, there were troubling increases in specific age brackets. Non-homicide gun deaths among kids under 15 increased 4 per cent from 283 to 295. Accidental firearms deaths in the age 5 to 9 group increased 21 percent from 28 to 34 deaths. Suicides among 10- to 14-year-olds also increased 21 percent, to 153, up from 126.

Many of these deaths could be prevented by keeping firearms locked up. If an adult owns a gun, he or she should be responsible enough to keep it away from children. Adults who keep a handgun in the nightstand for protection should unload and safely store it daily. If not, they shouldn't own firearms. Even if a parent teaches his or her own child gun safety, a playmate may lack that knowledge and come visiting. That's a formula for tragedy.

Preventing teen suicides, however, involves more than locks on the family arsenal - it takes a close, loving relationship with a child.

The best way to keep guns away from kids is a sturdy gun safe - and it doesn't have to rival the vault at the Third National Bank. Gun safes with pick-resistant locks are available for about $ 100 for long guns, and even less for handguns. Ammo should be locked away in a separate place.

It's a small price to pay, and a prudent precaution to avoid a lifetime of regret.

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