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VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES | Community Debate

Emotions Aside, Guns Save Lives

May 27, 2000|HOWARD E. CARMEAN | Retired teacher, San Bernardino

I think that the Million Mom March made a lot of people aware of the emotional aspect of the debate about guns. But many of those people are not prepared with the facts.

According to the National Rifle Assn., there are about 34,000 killed by guns in the U.S. every year. About half of those are suicides. Japan has a huge suicide rate and guns are illegal there. So how are they killing themselves? They jump off cliffs, hang themselves, poison themselves.

In 1998, 700 people were killed in gun accidents, according to the National Safety Council. Of this number, fewer than 300 were children. More children drown in swimming pools than are killed by guns.

What the Million Mom March did was very emotional and got a lot of headlines. It was all put out there to make a huge emotional impact. But I don't think they really accomplished anything.

While they were planning and doing this demonstration, I, with nine other certified NRA instructors, worked with 35 youngsters, ages 8-18, in a two-hour gun safety program. Each child got to shoot a .22 pistol and .22 rifle. The children's parents were present and were just as enthusiastic as the kids. It was one of many of these types of events held across the country.

The idea is to be safe around guns. We teach children who are under 8 years old that if they see or find a gun they should leave it alone and go tell an adult. With children 8 to 18, we teach them three very basic rules: Point the gun in a safe direction, make sure it's empty and always keep their finger off the trigger until they are ready to shoot. These are basic NRA rules that have been taught for at least 30 years. If a parent is opposed to guns, that child should be taught to never touch one. But we have to be realistic because sooner or later a child will come into contact with a gun or someone who has a gun. If that child knows the correct procedure, they will be better off. Children who are taught to be responsible with a gun grow into responsible adults with guns.

You never hear anyone talk about those people who avoided being crime victims because they had a gun or someone with a gun intervened to stop the crime. Criminals will pass on anyone who has a gun. They will skip the houses where they suspect there might be a gun. No criminal wants anything to do with those who have a gun and can defend themselves.

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