Monday, November 20, 2006

Common Sense Gun Safety

I haven’t posted much serious stuff for a couple of weeks now. Work has been obscenely busy and then there’s the laziness factor. Perhaps a better expression may be I took a vacation.

I found a link to an editorial that sparked me out of my procratination rut. David Codrea of War on Guns links an editorial from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The editorial states that guns can and should be made safer. Its hook is a doctor saying that guns are not regulated for consumer protection.

That’s true. Guns were specifically exempted from the purview of the Consumer Products Safety Commission. It is a consumer product, but the problem (if not the reason for the exemption) is that the gun issue is a political football with too many people wanting to ban them. I might feel a little better about “gun safety” cries if those who make them knew a little about guns and respected gun rights.

I like owning, shooting, and carrying safe guns. I don’t like guns that are made of pot metal. I once picked up an RG revolver that felt like a cap gun. I wouldn’t trust a gun that was notorious for firing if dropped. I would be leery of carrying a self-defense gun that tends to light primer strikes that don’t reliably touch off a round.

However, I don’t want a doctor or the co-director of the Center for Gun Policy & Research at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (as mentioned in the editorial) decide what’s safe. I especially don’t want to have politicians and bureaucrats make that decision. That’s already happened in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts’s Attorney General felt that guns weren’t safe enough. He almost unilaterally used “consumer protection” laws to ensure that many high quality, trustworthy new guns are banned from sale in that benighted place.

His regulations reduce consumer choice and responsibility. I own a modern copy of a cowboy “Peacemaker” revolver that is well made, but has an old fashioned firing pin that could lead to an accidental discharge if I dropped it. That is, it would if I carried it with the hammer over a loaded chamber. I also know enough not to buy a gun made out of pot metal.

When these doctors, scholars, and politicians talk about safe guns they’re really talking about ways to take guns out of people’s hands. They want to make sure guns are expensive, hard to use, and kept out of “those” people’s hands.

They also want to idiot-proof what is a deadly weapon. Guns (like chain saws, cars, and welding torches) have certain inherent dangers. No matter how safe you make a gun its function is to propel a small piece of metal very fast at whatever a user aims at. If that user is an idiot and points it ay his head or his friend no safety lever is going to help. If the user is a criminal, no safety gadget will save his victim.

The only thing that certain safety features might stop is a curious child shooting herself or another, but such shootings are rare. Such accidents are always a tragedy. Equally, a child falling down the stairs, drinking household chemicals, or being struck by a car are tragedies. Gunnies have a responsibility to ensure their guns and ammunition doesn’t fall into the hands of a young child (and why a child is not being supervised is another matter entirely).

The best prevention of gun accidents for adults and children is education. People need to learn that making a semi-auto safe is counterintuitive. You remove the magazine and then rack the slide to extract the chambered round. They need to understand that any mechanical safety, no matter how new, can fail. Most of all, they need to understand basic gun safety rules.

Doctors, scholars, and politicians for the most part don’t want to support gun safety training especially when real guns are handled and shot. Such training is really the best “common sense” “consumer safety feature” they could support.

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