Outdoor / Fishing

Thursday, Dec 27 2012 06:04 PM

Steve Merlo: Gun owners face heavy responsibilities for safety

By The Bakersfield Californian

The cold-blooded massacre in a Connecticut school has basically divided our country into hard-line pro- and anti-gun factions, with both sides screaming for justice. The seriousness cannot be whitewashed, and every man, woman and child in our nation needs to take a hard look at what happened and then do something intelligent to prevent another heinous attack on innocent people.

No one dares argue the event caused plenty of irreversible damage to proponents of second amendment rights as written in the Constitution. But the shootings also brought gun owners closer together. This occurred not because frustrated and innocent owners enjoyed any form of the hideous attack, but because they immediately knew another rights assault was on the way from forces that not only hated guns for what ever reason, but feared them as well.

I try not to get political in my columns, but before everyone goes off the deep end and into some sort of civil war, let's put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the parties most responsible for the senseless act:

I'm not certain about Connecticut laws, but the gunman's poor dead mother, had she survived and lived in California, would have faced multiple felony charges for allowing her licensed weapons to fall into the hands of a minor. The woman also knew her son to be mentally unbalanced, yet he somehow gained possession of her firearms, which means someone wasn't thinking too clearly. Guns, inherently dangerous, must obviously be secured at all times with no excuses, especially from those unable to separate rights from wrongs.

There are more than 20,000 mostly unenforced gun laws already on the nation's books. But these gun-related statutes, intended to stop the legions of criminal-types hell bent on killing people or breaking these laws, have had little or no effect since their enactments, I would argue. Simply put, our society cannot effectively legislate against stupidity or evil in any form, including mental instability.

Does that mean we shouldn't try to stop these acts of terror? Of course not, but let's put the blame for them where it belongs, and not on the legal gun owners of our country.

With that in mind, all gun owners need to be fully aware of the tremendous responsibilities they shoulder in our society simply by owning those firearms, whether the guns leave the home or not. The old casualness of guns lying or leaning around the house in plain sight might have been fine two decades ago, but in this day and age we must take a closer look at leaving firearms where children, visitors, neighbors or even criminals could theoretically have easy access to them.

Several years ago, a young teenager living directly behind our old home took the hinges off of his dad's wooden gun case and gained access to his father's "locked" collection. The boy, as all kids do, loved to shoot guns, but did not have the necessary safety basics, weapons training or grasp of urban legalities to know much about the power of bullets. Because his parents worked many hours each day, they could only infrequently take him out for some shooting fun.

Alone at home after school, he decided to steal into the cabinet and fire some rounds off in the backyard with a .22 rifle, busting cans sitting on the fence separating our homes. Later, when he got bored of the .22s, he graduated to his father's .44-Magnum revolver and started shooting at neighborhood air conditioners --one here, one there -- of which several were struck. The sounds were muffled, and since it was near July 4, most of us assumed the sounds were fire crackers; right up until my next door neighbor almost got hit by a 250-grain projectile that had passed through my back fence and into his vehicle.

Upon inspection we both discovered many holes in my fence and several damaged A/C units. One bullet had struck our home only inches from where my wife spent a good deal of time sewing. Upon his arrest, the boy claimed that he had seen people hide behind fences and other partitions on TV programs and had no idea the bullets would pass on though. This little story is only a reminder that gun security for gun owners may not be as secure as one would hope, nor is firearms training. It's up to us to make sure it is or risk losing our guns to a fed up society.

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