As mass shootings make their rounds in the news, the conversation about gun control is on everyone’s minds. However, basic education in firearm safety often is not. Legislators and lobbyists run themselves ragged writing bills they think will pass. It is a game of Democrats and Republicans playing tug-of-war with the repealing and reinstatement of gun laws. It takes over TV and radio with shouty gun-nuts and weepy children. Commentators and journalists often forget the measures and laws to prevent shootings already exist. They forget the main issues contributing to gun violence are poverty and ineffective law enforcement. We will never solve these root issues because the politicians voting on them know little about poverty and law enforcement, and less about firearms.
Contrary to what many Americans think, very few politicians are actually in the pocket of the NRA. Even fewer politicians have practical education on firearms– in either their safety, usage, or history. This is a problem we see all across the board; the exploitation of “Gun Fear” to pass legislation. A mass shooting occurs, they pass bits of legislation that ignore already active legislation and display a general lack of gun knowledge in firearm safety.
Motor Vehicle Safety vs Firearms Safety
We cannot expect every legislator to be an expert on firearms any more than we can expect them to be experts on motor vehicles. However, we would expect politicians passing legislation on, say, motorcycle safety to know how they operate on the road. This is because more people are educated on how cars work than how guns work. This makes sense at first. The majority of people interact with cars vastly more than they interact with any sort of mechanical weapon. But it starts to make less sense when people don’t hang around horses know not to walk behind horses.
It seems people have to grow up in a specific environment to know the basics about guns. This is a dangerous problem, not only for legislators but for regular citizens. Guns, although a person may not interact with them as much as they do cars, have the capacity to do far more damage. Holding a gun is a more serious situation than holding the steering wheel of a car.
Ignorance Breeds Fear
High schoolers are learning to administer Narcan, an opioid overdose reversal medication. Due to the rise of opioid overdose, it makes sense to educate kids on what to do, should a situation arise.
Although Americans are addicted to opioids and own guns at a similar rate, we are more educated on addiction. Addiction education should be a priority they kill far more people than guns. But this does highlight a discrepancy in education that we must address. We need to teach children, particularly adolescents, basic firearm safety. Ignorance breeds fear, and education can usually stem that.
When people are too afraid of a situation, a group, or situation, it almost always escalates the situation. We see this in the AIDs epidemic of the 80s and 90s. People were afraid of being around those with HIV, and this lead to violence, discrimination, addiction, and criminality. The epidemic was quelled by a mix of sex and HIV education. Gun violence works in much the same way. When we are afraid to interact with something, it makes us either volatile or impotent.
Education in Firearm Safety Works
There are a few basic rules for firearm safety. If everyone knows and follows these rules, we could drastically reduce accidents which claimed 486 lives in 2017.
- Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
- Make sure that any gun ALWAYS points in a safe direction.
- Never point a gun at anything you do not intend to destroy.
- Be aware of your target, and what lies beyond it.
- You are the only reliable safety
- Always ensure your gun is open and unloaded before handing it to anyone.
- Alcohol and firearms do not mix.
Number 5 is crucial because it emphasizes that firearms are inanimate objects and that the people wielding them are responsible for the safety and proper use of the firearm.
When people are able to recognize a dangerous situation involving guns, they are more likely to report it. This is in the same way most people can recognize a dangerous situation with cars, illicit substances, or exotic animals. The issue is all these other situations tend to be far more intuitive than situations with guns. This is why we can’t dance around this problem. There needs to be effective and direct firearm safety education; a specific class on the subject would work well.
Classes like this already exist in some counties and they are doing well, reducing rates of gun violence. In fact, firearm education might have been just the thing (excluding more effective law enforcement) could’ve stopped the Parkland shooting. If only people could have better seen the real situation, the safety issues. The police might’ve gotten one too many calls and could’ve done something.
Ignoring the tragic results of a lack of firearm education and safety, there are also has practical and legal repercussions as well. A lack of firearm safety and education is what leads to people believing things like “Assault Rifles” are real firearm categories. This is what leads to people believing that semi-automatic weapons are uncommon or above civilian-grade. It’s what leads people to believe the AR-15 and American AKs are fully automatic or military-grade weapons. It leads people to the argument that no one uses AR-15s for hunting, despite that being one of the most popular hunting rifles.
When politicians aren’t well informed about the laws they seek to pass, they can do real damage. When gun laws are passed that make sweeping generalizations about “Assault Weapon” bans, it muddies the water as to what guns fall under that category. It muddies the water about how to truly prevent gun violence. It lets lawmakers wash their hands of responsibility when a law fails because “we aren’t the experts”. Firearm safety and education would vastly improve the situations of Americans at risk of gun violence. It would improve the security of responsible gun owners and deter political scare-mongering. It is a necessary move, just like drug, health, or car education.
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