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Editor’s Notebook

Do You Use a Gunsafe?

by Gila Hayes

I write this as on the day after the Sandy Hook, CT shootings, we are still reeling with sorrow, horrified that all those children and teachers were defenseless when they faced a mentally-ill man who decided to take their lives before taking his own. As gun owners, we militantly argue the responsibility of the individual and do not blame the tools. As gun owners, we go to great lengths to assure Americans’ rights to practice freedom of speech, the right to go where we want when we want, and yes, the right to possess firearms for individual defense and defense against government tyranny. We also know that not every person can safely be trusted with either cars or guns, whether owing to youthful immaturity, mental defect or other proof that they are incapable of making sensible decisions. At the same time, we resist the intrusion of government into deciding who can be trusted to behave responsibly and who cannot.

For example, when our aging relatives no longer can drive safely, we take the hard step of removing their access to automobiles, while making sure that their needs to go where they wish when they wish are reasonably assured. Trust me, taking Grandpa’s car away can be a wrenching decision that sometimes divides families, but faced with the specter of the patriarch causing an automobile accident in which others may die, most families muster the courage to intervene. But sometimes families chicken out and “hope” the problem will resolve itself…maybe he’ll forget to renew his driving license or won’t be able to pass the eye test. Maybe his car will break down and he won’t be able to get it repaired…maybe, maybe. Yeah, right. And sometimes the old duffer goes out on the highway, misjudges the distance in a passing lane or fails to see a car in an intersection and people die because of his bad judgment.

Who is responsible? Certainly, the hypothetical aging driver should have stayed off the road, but his age or dementia has impaired his ability to make good decisions. If loving relatives are too selfish to step in and prevent him from driving, then the government is going to have to intercede. Pray that Grandpa will violate a traffic law or have a no-injury accident and lose his license that way, because apparently his relatives are too selfish to face the unpleasantness of bringing an end to his driving career.

What does this scenario have to do with armed citizens? The murderer in CT was 20. He did not acquire the rifle and pistols he used; reports tell that they were registered to his mother, whom he killed first. ABC News quoted a relative who said that the young man was “obviously not well.” At one point, his mother removed him from school and began home-schooling, because of problems at school. In addition, the murderer was the brother and the son of two adult men who are obviously competent, because both are said to be successful in their careers. At least three relatives had to know that he not mentally competent to make reasonable decisions. That is at least three people, two who survive, who now bear the unimaginable burden of explaining why they did not guarantee that those firearms were kept in a gun safe or even a separate location that the murderer could not access.

You may be saying, “This is unthinkable! We cannot add to the grief and loss this family must endure.” I say this in reply: until we demand explanations when irresponsible failures to intervene occur, other members of society will continue to take the easy way out and blame the tools of violence, not the human perpetrators of violence. Should gun ban advocates succeed–and now it is even more likely that they may eventually outlaw possession of defensive firearms–violent crime will not stop. Murder and assault will be committed with illegally possessed firearms or with other improvised but equally lethal or even more destructive weapons…oh, explosives, for example, come to mind.