It’s neglectful for gun owners to leave weapons unsecured, period

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child with a gun

As a mother and gun owner, I’m saddened and outraged at accidental shootings involving children. I insist it’s time that every parent prepares themselves for a rational conversation about firearm safety in their daily lives. Contrary to what we hear every time there’s an accidental shooting, we don’t need more regulations. We need more common sense, and we need to consistently enforce the existing laws.

Let’s stop acting as though gun ownership is a taboo subject. The cost of avoiding the topic is too high. Even parents that hate guns need to be able to have a responsible conversation whenever your children are left under the supervision of someone who may possess a firearm. Likewise, if you are a parent and gun owner, you need to assess your behavior and make sure it is consistent with responsible gun ownership. Just as we wouldn’t allow our children to run into traffic, we shouldn’t allow them into situations where their lives are at risk from accidental shootings.

I’m an adamant Second Amendment supporter. Not only did I learn gun safety and how to shoot as a teen, I target shot recreationally in college. I spent two campaign seasons working for the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. I’ve held a concealed carry license for years. And I firmly believe it’s the gun owner’s responsibility to keep firearms out of the reach of children. When they don’t, they should be held responsible.

Media accounts of accidental shooting deaths have become commonplace, prompting calls for additional regulations intended to prevent accidents like the one in Irondale in February. In that case, a 3-year-old shot and killed his 9-year old sister with a firearm found in their grandfathers nightstand. In another recent, well-publicized case out of Florida,  a 4-year-old picked up his mother’s loaded firearm and shot her in the back while she drove. She remains hospitalized.

So what can we do as parents? You should know if homes your child visits have firearms. Period. You should know where they’re stored and how they’re secured, and if the owner won’t tell you, your child shouldn’t be there. This shouldn’t be a divisive thing. You should not need to argue the merits of gun ownership with everyone you know, but you have a responsibility to protect and, when age appropriate, prepare your child. Before other children come to my home, I have an honest conversation about my firearms with their parents. I hope this encourages others to do the same.

The American Academy of Pediatrics upset many, including me, when it issued guidelines encouraging families with children not to own guns. AAP then went further by suggesting if you own a gun, it should be stored in a way that would render it essentially useless. The intention was noble, but the recommendation was unrealistic. I wish they had encouraged more parents to talk to one another and to their children about gun ownership and safety. The NRA has developed the Eddie Eagle program, aimed at teaching kids about the dangers of firearms and what to do if they come across one. Regardless of how you address it with your children, gun safety is an issue that should not be ignored.

As a parent, it is my responsibility to protect my children. As a gun owner, it is my responsibility to maintain control of my firearms and to realize the deadly consequences of not doing so. We need to make sure that this sense of responsibility is widespread for all parents and all gun owners.

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This article originally appeared on AL.com on March 22, 2016.

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