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A few pointers on gun safety

Recent Canyon Country shooting highlights the need to keep weapons away from children

Posted: June 2, 2008 1:26 a.m.
Updated: August 3, 2008 5:03 a.m.

A 13-year-old Canyon Country resident was shot in the head by an accidentally discharged .22-caliber handgun, similar to the one pictured here.

 
During the Memorial Day Weekend, two Canyon Country boys, ages 12 and 13, were playing with a .22-caliber handgun in a home where they stayed. The 13-year-old was injured when the gun was accidentally discharged, causing a bullet to enter his left temple and exit near his eye.

Local authorities are currently considering whether to file felony charges against the gun's owner for criminal storage of a firearm.

Under California law, a person may be held liable and face felony charges if they have a loaded firearm in a location such as a home and they would or should reasonably know that a minor will likely access it and then kills or injures someone. However, liability may be absolved if the gun or firearm was stored in a secure locked container or locked with a device that rendered it inoperable.

Nonetheless, gun safety in homes, specifically in homes with minors, is always a concern.

There are several ways to prevent accidental injury from a handgun, such as proper storage, and educating children about the dangers of handguns.

While proper storage of guns is vital in preventing handgun-related injuries, one local resident stated that education is the best defense.

"The first step is to render your handgun unusable by anyone who is not authorized to use it, especially around children," said Valencia resident Morgan Cina, who uses handguns at a local shooting range.

"Yet, by far the most important thing to do is to educate your children. Just like anything else, if you are not educated about something that can be dangerous, then the risk of being harmed by that thing increases significantly."

Cina added that his own parents extensively educated him about handguns, allowing him to properly respect and understand firearms.

In addition to educating children about proper use of a firearm, storing the handgun is also important.

According to Cina, the best way to store handguns or firearms is in a California-approved gun safe. He urged gun owners to use state-approved gun locks, such as trigger locks, to ensure that the firearm is not accidentally discharged if it falls in the wrong hands.

A recent report released by Dr. Mark Schuster, a professor of pediatrics and health services at UCLA, stated that guarding access to firearms is essential.

"Studies have found that many firearm owners, including those in homes with children, do not keep firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition," Schuster said in his report. "Many children live in homes with firearms that are stored in an accessible manner. Efforts to prevent children's access to firearms are needed."

Another report on gun safety techniques echoed similar sentiments. "Storing household guns as locked, unloaded, or separate from the ammunition is associated with significant reductions in the risk of unintentional and self-inflicted firearm injuries and deaths among adolescents and children," Dr. David C. Grossman said in the report.

One study analyzed recent statistics released by the Center for Disease Control and RAND Corporation, which stated that more than 148,000 people have been killed by a firearm in America between 2000 and 2005. Among those deaths included approximately 14,500 children and teens.

Schuster added that 55 percent of children in the United States live in homes with at least one firearm in an unlocked place, and 43 percent had unlocked firearms.

"More than 4.7 million homes with more than 8.3 million children store firearms unlocked, including about 946,000 homes with firearms unlocked and loaded and about 425,000 homes with firearms unlocked, unloaded, and with ammunition," Schuster said. "Many firearms are stored in a manner that increases the chances of a child's gaining access to a firearm and discharging it."

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