More gun education is needed

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 25, 2001

Guns don’t kill people.

Monday, June 25, 2001

Guns don’t kill people. Children do.

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What a horrible twist that would be on a well-known slogan. But a recent study in the journal Pediatrics points to the extreme danger children put themselves and others in even after being taught gun safety.

The study involved 64 Atlanta-area boys, ages 8 to 12. Seventy-five percent, or 48, found the hidden gun. Nearly half – 30 – handled it. And one-fourth or 16 boys pulled the trigger.

The parents of the boys who handled the gun told researchers they thought their sons had a low interest in guns.

The scenario for the study included putting groups of two or three brothers or friends in a room for about 15 minutes to duplicate the circumstances of kids playing together. They were not told there was a .380 caliber semiautomatic handgun in a cabinet drawer. They were not told whether the gun was a toy or real. They did not know whether or not it was loaded.

What’s disturbing is that the boys’ natural curiosity ruled their actions even when they had been taught gun safety by parents or school programs. Some of the boys looked down the barrel of the gun.

The National Rifle Association already has dismissed the study as misleading because the sample was too small. Further study isn’t a bad idea, but parents probably don’t want to risk waiting for another study that matches the NRA’s philosophy that education is what matters when it comes to safety.

The numbers of kids who handled the gun is a convincing enough figure to make any parent reconsider their approach to gun safety. Every parent knows that just because a child agrees to not do something doesn’t mean his behavior is going to match those words all of the time.

What parent wants to test whether their child is going to obey them or remember their warnings when it comes to gun safety?

A number of states have passed laws that require child-safety locks on guns, and other laws make it illegal to leave a firearm in reach of a child under 16. In light of this recent study and common sense, such laws are wise.

Even if it’s not the law, the best bet is to keep guns locked away and out of children’s sight and reach.