There’s a small town called Marlette in Sanilac County, Michigan. It’s a largely rural area in Michigan’s thumb. Hunting is common in this area as are guns in the home. People, even youngsters, are generally familiar with guns. But that doesn’t stop senseless gun deaths from happening.
In the week before Thanksgiving two twelve year old boys were left home alone near Marlette with no adult supervision, one boy hosting another at a “sleepover.” The boy whose home it was showed his friend a long gun (rifle or shotgun). According to his testimony as he it put the gun back in the corner that he got it from the loaded gun went off, killing his friend instantly.
Think of the horror that this young man witnessed and that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Think of a young life cut short in its prime. Think of the parents being told that their son who left their home happy and healthy a short time earlier was dead. Think of a homeowner who will hopefully be charged with criminal negligence and will spend lots of money and time defending his or her self for the next few months or years and maybe spending time in jail. This didn’t have to happen, it was totally preventable.
There are laws that state that if an owner’s gun causes harm to someone because it wasn’t properly secured the owner is liable. The owner of the gun hasn’t been revealed yet in this case. It could belong to the boy who was showing it off. Or it could belong to another person in the household. The county prosecutor in this case has not decided yet whether to charge the guns owner. But whoever the owner was and however sad, remorseful and horrified he or she was about the accident they should be charged. We must make people take seriously their responsibilities as a gun owner. And if it’s the boy’s gun we must make parents responsible for their child’s actions when it comes to the safety of others.
Loaded guns should never be sitting around a home propped in corners. They shouldn’t be hanging from hooks, on a shelf, under a pillow or in a drawer either. Guns should be stored unloaded and ammunition should be stored in a separate place from the guns. If there are children in the home, even for visits, guns should be in a locked gun case. At the very minimum all guns should have a trigger lock. Gun locks are inexpensive and many police departments actually give them away.
There is rarely a home defense need that can’t be solved by a competent gun owner quickly retrieving a gun from its secure spot and loading it. Practice if you must. A trained person can get a gun lock off and the gun loaded in seconds. If you are living with a need to have a loaded gun at hand at all times you need to move or see a mental health counselor. And you certainly do not need to have children in your home.
Even the youngest gun owner must know how to unload a gun and how to check to see if it’s loaded or unloaded before handling it. They should be taught to think of all guns as loaded and treat them as such until proven to be otherwise. They should be taught responsible gun handling, such as never pointing the gun at someone. But no matter how much you teach them about responsible gun ownership kids will be kids. They forget, they are easily swayed by peer pressure, they don’t believe they are vulnerable. So whenever there are guns around kids there should be adult supervision.
Twelve year old boys are old enough for a lot of things, maybe even a sleepover without adults. (And to be fair it was only about 8:30 in the evening in this case and the parents may have been home soon.) In a rural area children often handle things like driving farm machinery and caring for large animals. They hunt, sometimes even alone, however risky that is. But when they are in a home without adult supervision the guns should be locked up. If they aren’t safe without guns they shouldn’t be left alone.
If you believe gun ownership is your right then you must take full responsibility for the guns you own. And if you allow your children to have guns then you assume full responsibility for those guns. Guns are not toys, they aren’t accessories or decorations. They are weapons and they should always be thought of as such. Guns may not kill but irresponsible people certainly do.
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