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Federal trigger-lock mandate.

ITEM: Last year, as noted by the Appleton Post-Crescent (Wis.) for July 19, a bill was signed into law "that required trigger locks on all handguns sold." The law passed "as part of a larger, misguided measure that gave the gun industry immunity from some types of lawsuits. But the House of Representatives [this summer] pulled a fast one on a public that overwhelmingly favors gun locks." In July, "the House passed an amendment to a law-enforcement bill that overturns the law by prohibiting its enforcement." The sponsor of the amendment, noted the paper, said the mandatory lock was an extra cost to gun owners. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) called it the "equivalent to a tax on citizens who purchase firearms." But, argued the Post-Crescent, "at about $5, it's hardly an overwhelming burden. Instead, trigger locks are a 'weapon' in the fight against tragedy."

Citing figures by the Centers for Disease Control indicating that "1.7 million American kids live in households with unlocked, loaded guns," the paper also said that "about 150 kids died from accidental gunshot wounds in the United States in 2003." The newspaper editorialized that "Tragically--and sadly--the House representatives who voted to overturn this law don't care enough about the safety of the nation's children."

ITEM: The Tennessean for July 17, complaining about the House action, opined that the "trigger-lock requirement has one simple purpose--to prevent handgun accidents, particularly among children."

CORRECTION: Liberals have become overly fond of using children as props to impose more regulations and taxation or to impinge on personal freedoms--in the guise of protecting supposed helpless youngsters.

While it would be hard to find someone responsible who does not believe that gun owners should pay close attention to the safety and supervision of their weapons, a federal mandate requiring trigger locks is not the solution.

The child-safety rationale for this law itself does not stand up to scrutiny. After all, overall accidental firearms deaths have been steadily decreasing and are a very minor proportion of all accidental deaths, according to official figures from the National Safety Council and National Center for Health Statistics. Consider: the annual number of accidental firearms deaths has dropped 77 percent since 1930, at the same time the nation's population more than doubled and the number of firearms has increased fivefold; firearms deaths are at an all-time low, overall and for children; and, firearms are involved in but 0.65 percent of accidental deaths nationwide, about 1 percent among children--behind many other means of death.

Should the feds put mandatory locks on doctors? No sensible person would urge that--but medical mistakes do result in about twice the number of accidental deaths as firearms. When Rep. Musgrave was discussing her amendment, she noted that lawn mowers can also be dangerous, and asked rhetorically whether that meant that the Congress should mandate that all lawn mowers be sold with a blade lock. Can automobiles be misused? Of course. But there is no call to require every steering wheel in the nation to have a lock on the steering column as an alleged solution for juvenile "joyriding."

Individual owners are expected to be responsible for their cars or lawn mowers. Those who misuse an auto or a mower are held accountable as individuals. Why should that not be the case with firearms?

Moreover, the fact that there are households with children where weapons are unlocked and the fact that there also (somewhere) accidental gun deaths among young people do not necessarily reflect a cause-and-effect relationship.

John Lott, who has researched and written extensively about gun laws, has pointed out in the Washington Times: "Accidental gun deaths among children are, fortunately, much rarer than most people believe. With 40 million children in the United States under the age of 10, there were just 20 accidental gun deaths in 2003, the latest year with data from the Centers for Disease Control. While guns get most of the attention, children are 41 times more likely to die from accidental suffocations, 32 times more likely to accidentally drown and 20 times more likely to die as a result of accidental fires. Looking at all children under 15, there were 56 accidental gun deaths in 2003--still a fraction of the deaths resulting from these other accidents for only the younger children. Given that there are over 90 million adults in America who own at least one gun, the overwhelming majority of gun owners must have been extremely careful, even before the 2005 law, or the figures would be much higher."

In his analyses over the years, Lott includes costs and benefits in his arguments, to show that there are often unstated or ignored consequences of mandating, for example, trigger locks or restrictions on carrying weapons. As he explained in his book More Guns, Less Crime, while it might turn out that as more people carry handguns that there are more accidents, it is also true the "number of murders prevented exceeded the entire number of accidental deaths." Some gun owners simply prefer not to use locks, and for good reasons. Crime victims often find that a gun that is needed for self-protection is of much less use when it is unloaded and locked.

President Bill Clinton used to be fond of saying that children were better protected against aspirins than they were against handguns. However, his demagoguery ignored the point that such solutions as "child-resistant" caps on medicine or locks on guns also may lead householders to believe, falsely, that such items are now "safe." Such a false sense of security could be deadly. Take those child-resistant tops, for instance. Research cited in the American Economic Review found that their use resulted in "3,500 additional poisonings of children under age 5 annually from [aspirin-related drugs] ... [as] consumers have been lulled into a less-safety-conscious mode of behavior by the existence of safety caps."

The key, as is usually the case, is more individual responsibility--not a more intrusive federal government.
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Title Annotation:Correction, Please!
Author:Hoar, William P.
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 21, 2006
Words:993
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