Step One: Control Your Own Guns
According to the Pocono Record, 14 guns were stolen from a Long Pond home last week. They were subsequently recovered when a woman the thief had threatened reported him to the police. Also, WNEP reports that a drug ring in the area was busted and, in the course of the investigation, many guns were taken into evidence. Just last month, one of our Long Pond neighbors was arrested at Newark Airport because he “forgot” about the loaded gun in his bag. And two years ago we had a Halloween party here in Emerald Lakes that ended in gunfire, injuring teenagers and terrifying residents.
Newtown may have awakened many to the dangers of guns in our communities, but it shouldn’t take a mass shooting to remind us all of how to be responsible gun owners. That tragedy and others like it, bring this issue to the forefront of our minds and hearts, and all too often they polarize our discussions, making it nearly impossible to find common ground. But we are, quite literally, sharing common ground here in Emerald Lakes, and we must do everything we can to make that ground safer for all. No matter where your opinion falls on the gun control debate, we should all be able to agree that proper care and storage of the guns that we and our neighbors own is the first step to keeping our families safe. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert, but there are very simple things that I have learned from reading and from the gun safety courses that I have taken that it seems many of our neighbors have forgotten. Too many excuses and instances of lazy gun ownership end up with weapons falling into the hands of those who would use them to do harm.
One very important consideration to remember is that child-proof does not always equal theft-proof, and nothing is fool-proof. No discussion about gun safety should overlook the simple fact that statistically you are more likely to be injured by a gun if there is a gun in your home. Choosing not to have a gun is the safest choice of all. However, I understand that statistics are simply not enough comfort for some, and not possible for others. If you must have guns in your home, you must find the absolute safest way to store them that meets the needs of your household.
Collectors should choose the best cabinets they can afford. (Hint: if you can afford a collection, you can afford the best cabinets to display them.) Tempered glass, keypad locks, steel bars and reinforced wood are features that add to the safety of your collection in a way that still allows for their display. Some of these features include methods of ensuring that your guns cannot be removed even if the glass is broken. Guns should be stored unloaded, with ammunition put away in a separate storage place. For hunters who don’t need to display their guns, heavy-duty gun safes, hidden and bolted to the structure of the house provide security that is both child-proof and theft-proof.
In the case of guns kept for home defense, owners must weigh the dangers of the weapon with the desire for quick access. A gun in the bedside table or a rifle behind the door not only pose dangers to children or other family members, but are also easily found and taken by burglars. They then become a danger to everyone. When you are not home, these guns are defending no one, and the dangers are multiplied. One habit that it will pay to cultivate is to store a home defense weapon in a gun safe in the bedroom. Open the safe when you are at home or in bed and place your house keys and/or car keys in the safe with the door open. This way, you will never forget to lock them away before leaving home. Of course, this does not keep your children safe from discovery and misuse of your gun, and there is always the possibility of an intruder getting to your gun before you do. Many safes are designed for quick access, and the added safety is well worth the few extra seconds it takes to get into it. Whatever you do, do NOT underestimate the ingenuity of young children and teenagers to ferret out any hiding spot you may use. (I have personally seen a toddler reach the top of a cabinet using the drawers to climb.)
If gun owners want to begin to curb the attacks and anger that come their way every time there is a tragedy, they must police their own behaviors and take the first step. Assess the safety and practices of gun ownership in your own homes. Be the model gun owner that you would want everyone to be. Had those 14 guns stolen last week not been recovered by police, they would have been added to the growing number of guns in our community that are obtained illegally and often used to harm others. While no one wants to blame a burglary victim for harm done by another, imagine the guilt you would feel if, due to your careless handling of your own guns, they were stolen and used to injure a member of your family or a neighbor. Hundreds of thousands of guns are stolen in the US every year, but proper safety precautions and storage could greatly reduce this number and, in turn, increase the safety of our community.