The public education I am advocating is, as I say, something the NRA, the NSSF, and other groups have already been doing on their own. For example last July the NSSF put out a press release that said, “NSSF reminds firearm owners that on returning home after spending a fun day at the shooting range [they should] immediately secure firearms so that a child or other unauthorized person cannot access a loaded gun. . . . Putting firearms away unloaded and storing ammunition separately — both in locked locations — can prevent a tragic accident from happening. Gun cabinets and gun safes are excellent locked-storage options, and adding a gun lock to a firearm provides an extra level of safety.”
The NSSF also has a lot of literature available for gun owners. This includes safety brochures such as “Firearms Safety Depends on You” and “Firearms Responsibility in the Home.” You can see these brochures and more at the NSSF’s websites. (There are also Spanish-language versions available.) The NSSF also has a Firearm Safety DVD. In fact, through its Project ChildSafe, the NSSF provides firearm-safety kits that include a gun-locking device and a safety-education brochure; these are available free of charge through law-enforcement agencies.
The point is that those who keep a firearm for home protection should develop safety procedures to make sure criminals don’t steal and then use their guns. Let’s help them do so with public education. Friends of Nancy Lanza say she was new to the shooting sports and saw them as a way to bond with her troubled son. It isn’t clear whether she had ever been taught proper procedures for using and storing firearms.
Many of the recent mass shootings could have been prevented by these simple measures alone.
2. If a gun is stolen . . . Gun owners should be encouraged to write down and keep track of their firearms’ serial numbers, makes, and models. This way, law enforcement can be properly informed if a gun is stolen. The information could then be added to the National Crime Information Center’s database, which is available to law-enforcement agencies.
Instead of educating law-abiding people to be responsible, anti-gun groups want mandatory gun-owner databases. The NRA, the NSSF, and others see this as a massive invasion of Americans’ privacy. They note that gun-owner lists have historically led to gun confiscations in other countries. Then there is the fact that such databases don’t work very well. Canada recently decided to unravel its expensive attempt to register all guns.
We should give gun owners hotlines to call if a gun is stolen. It would then be up to the gun owner to reveal the serial number if he chose to — and most would, if only in hopes of getting the gun back. This policy would be in keeping with the civil liberties of our republic.
3. Teach the NRA rules of gun safety. If the Brady Campaign really wants to reduce gun violence and accidental injuries, then it should back courses in our schools that teach kids what to do if they encounter a firearm. The NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program has already developed methods for accomplishing this and has been used to teach millions of children. If the gun-control groups resist these simple safety courses — and they have — doesn’t that show who the extremists really are?
Beyond teaching children not to pick up firearms unless an adult is instructing them, and how to store firearms safely, we should all learn the NRA rules of gun handling. They are simple and important: 1. Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. 2. Keep guns unloaded until you need to use them (a personal-protection gun counts as being needed for use, provided that it is stored or holstered safely). 3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you have identified a target, determined that the shot is safe, and decided to shoot.
4. Pass laws to allow gun owners to protect others. At the very least, we need an exception to our make-believe “gun-free” zones. We should give teachers and other school officials who have concealed-carry permits a way to utilize their guns in schools. Such a program could be modeled on the Armed Pilots Program instituted by Congress after 9/11. These teachers and officials would have to pass shooting-safety courses, have background checks, and so on to make certain they’re responsible citizens who are suited to taking on this burden.
President Obama might disagree. The federal government has budgeted $25 million a year to deputize and train volunteer commercial pilots to carry firearms in the Armed Pilots Program (officially called the “Federal Flight Deck Officer Program”). In his 2013 budget, Obama proposed cutting the program’s funding to $12 million. Also, many on the anti-gun Left are opposed to giving people who aren’t law-enforcement officers the ability to act for our common defense. It’s time the Left was called out on this unreasonable stance.
After all, if anti-gun groups’ position is that a civilian acting as a good Samaritan to stop a crime might shoot a bystander, ask yourself: If a killer was shooting people around you, would you consider it a reasonable risk that a private citizen might hit you by accident as he or she tries to shoot the sociopath?
School officials have successfully stopped killers before. In 1997 a student named Luke Woodham shot two people at Pearl High School in Pearl, Miss. He then headed for a nearby junior high school but was stopped by Joel Myrick, the assistant principal of the high school. Myrick retrieved a handgun he kept in his vehicle and used it to disarm Woodham. There are many other examples of armed citizens stopping murderers.
So, given the right safeguards, teachers and administrators with military or law-enforcement backgrounds or other shooting experience could be another line of defense if the Left would be willing to trust individuals, not just the state.
5. Revamp mental-health legislation. Many of the people who decide to commit mass murder turn out to have severe psychological problems. More than hindsight shows us that this was the case with Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech), Jared Lee Loughner (Tucson), James Eagen Holmes (Aurora, Colo.), and now Adam Lanza. Though all these cases are different, friends and family were aware of each of these people’s illnesses. Our mental-health community needs to be given the job of coming up with ways to find and help these troubled individuals before they act.
This has been debated recently. After the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007 a federal law was passed to help states report individuals who should be banned from buying guns because of mental illness. Unfortunately, many states are not doing a good job of updating the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) system. (The lack of proper reporting by Virginia had allowed Seung-Hui Cho to purchase a firearm even though a judge had found him to be a danger to himself.) This issue needs to be addressed again.
In sum, America’s 100 million gun owners are just as outraged by the Newtown killings as those who choose not to own guns. If the government was willing to work with them, these and other common-sense strategies could help prevent mass shootings in the future.
— Frank Miniter is the author of The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Manhood.