Content by Bill Hamm
A grandmother, age 80, was struck by a bullet unintentionally fired by teenagers handling firearms in the first floor of her house; a mother, age 22, was shot and killed by her toddler who found a loaded gun in the backseat of her car; and a child, age 10, unintentionally killed herself while playing with her uncle’s gun. These recent accidents, each uniquely tragic, share at least one thing in common: they could have been avoided if the firearms had been safely stored or secured with gun locks.
Because these guns were unsecured, serious injuries resulted, two of them fatal, and there were life-altering emotional and legal consequences for the responsible gun owners, and least one of whom has already been charged with involuntary manslaughter. These are just three examples of the more than 2,000 unintentional shootings that happen in our country every year. Of the more than 5 million first-time gun purchasers in the US last year, fewer than half received safety training. Rather than cope with these preventable tragedies after they happen, why not educate gun owners on how to prevent them in the first place?
We know from experience that unintentional shootings can be reduced with training. Between 1982, when Pennsylvania began requiring training before obtaining a first hunting permit, and 2015, unintentional shootings in the hunting field fell by 87%. There are bills now pending in Pennsylvania modeled on the hunter safety program that would require training before first firearm purchase. Please contact your representative and urge them to support these bills (House Bill (HB 1846), sponsored by Representative Sappey, and Senate Bill (SB 855), sponsored by Senator Muth).
In the meantime, if you have a firearm in your home, please be sure it is safely secured. Gun locks are available free of charge at the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office. You can call 215-686-3572 to receive one. Temple Safety Net, a violence prevention program at Temple University Hospital, also distributes free gun locks and offers violence prevention education and training throughout the city.