Safety Dejavu

We start at a very young age to teach our children how to handle the dangerous items of our world safely. 

We teach them never to run with scissors, and to carry them with the pointy side down.  Likewise to carry knives point down and never run, and be sure to keep fingers curved out of the way, and the point in contact with the cutting surface to prevent slipping while we are cutting our food. Every sharp object comes with a caution.  Every electrical appliance comes with a warning to keep away from water, to unplug when not in use, the toaster, the oven, the lamp, and the list goes on.  Cars are so dangerous we must pass a test and get a license which is renewed every few years, because it is dangerous not only to ourselves, but to others. 

Guns, another dangerous item, has created controversy, because gun ownership is protected under the constitution, and some feel that simple registration of a firearm is limiting our protection under the law of our right to bear arms.  Every time a gun related tragedy occurs each side becomes more entrenched in their position. 

Recently a 9 year old girl killed her gun instructor on an Arizona gun range.  Instructor Charles Vucca, 39, was killed while showing the girl the safe operation of a submachine gun, also called an Uzi.  Listening to the report, and then listening to the mothers at work boasting of their daughters firing an Uzi and showing off the videos on their phones, all I could think of were Jarts. 

You might not be familiar with Jarts, a lawn darts game consisting of colorful plastic fins and a heavy 5 inch metal tip which became illegal in 1988.  My family had one of these games, which were a lot easier to set up with its plastic ring target to toss the Jart into than a game of horseshoes.  With that heavy, metal tip I could clearly see the potential for danger, but the game was fun, just as Horseshoes is fun, and still has an underground following. 

My defense of the game was much like the defense of gun owners.  I kept the game hidden out of the reach my children, on a very high shelf they did not have access to.  My husband got the ladder out to retrieve the game from its hiding place when we wanted to play.  We played in a very safe way, with everyone on one side, tossing the Jarts to the ring on the other side, each person taking their turn.  “Jarts didn’t kill people, careless people killed people”.  My children were learning the correct way to play with this dangerous item.  My children were learning the right way.  My children would never be careless with something I was so careful to make clear to them was dangerous

And this is what I thought until the day my 30 something oldest son told me that between ages of 8 to 10 he and a friend got out the ladder, got the game down from its hiding place, and would toss the Jarts into the air and lay down to see how close to their heads they could get the Jarts to land.  My son and his friend did this many times. 

In 1988 Jarts were taken off the market the weekend before Christmas.  My son was 15 years old, and thankfully had outgrown this game.  Eventually, I did get rid of Jarts.  Thank God neither my son nor his friend got killed, but many people did, and Jarts was only a game.

Gun safety is a major issue in the United States.  How do we teach children the proper respect for firearms, and how to handle firearms safely?  How do we protect others from the harm that can occur from the mishandling of firearms?  What kind of gun regulation can keep firearms from getting into the hands of people who clearly should not have them?  How do we protect children from the consequences of the dangers guns pose?   

 

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8 thoughts on “Safety Dejavu

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  1. Gun safety is a major issue in the United States.

    First we have to clearly established if the firearms are a major issue or not.
    Leading causes of death in America.
    Heart disease: 596,577
    Cancer: 576,691
    Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 142,943
    Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,932
    Accidents (unintentional injuries): 126,438
    Alzheimer’s disease: 84,974
    Diabetes: 73,831
    Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,826
    Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 45,591
    Intentional self-harm (suicide): 39,518

    Approximately 60% of suicides are committed with firearms, with evidence that those who want to commit suicide will find other ways (substitution effect) — so with homicides we have about 30,000 firearm related deaths a year. Out of a population of 313,000,000.

    Firearms do not rank in the top 10 or so causes of non-fatal injuries either.

    Combine that with information from the F.B.I, that related 50% of all homicides and 85% of all violent crime is drug or gang related. There are approximately 450,000 firearm related violent crimes each year. The information clearly shows that a very very small part of the deaths and injuries are firearm related each year.

    How do we teach children the proper respect for firearms, and how to handle firearms safely?

    I think you hit the right note with the way we raise our kids with other dangerous objects. Heck we start letting kids cook at an early age and we definitely have more injuries from them driving. I think one of the biggest things we have to do is take away the mystique of the firearms from popular culture. Growing up, we knew the dangers of firearms because we saw what they could do. We didn’t think we could get shot a dozen times and keep going ala John McLane (Die Hard) or ‘respawn’ after getting shot ala video games.

    How do we protect others from the harm that can occur from the mishandling of firearms?

    Please don’t take this the wrong way but is that the right question?
    We can’t protect others from the harm that occurs from the mishandling of poisons, knives, cars, cooking, thousands of other dangerous activities….so why should firearms be treated differently?
    See this is predicated on the issue of firearms being such a huge issue. We already have laws, civil and criminal, to handle misuse; do we need something else?

    What kind of gun regulation can keep firearms from getting into the hands of people who clearly should not have them?

    The anecdotal evidence seems to suggest we really can’t do that. Chicago has draconian people control laws (they really don’t focus on the guns) in a state that has draconian laws. Yet its homicide rate is around 10 per 100K. Fort Worth, relatively lax laws, in the State of Texas, has a homicide rate of 6 per 100k. If gun control laws were going to work; wouldn’t Chicago be lower than Fort Worth?

    How do we protect children from the consequences of the dangers guns pose?

    Education, avoidance and consequences. One of the biggest problems I see in ‘gun control laws’ is how relatively few times the criminal actually spends time in jail regarding them. Oh, the prosecutors love the laws, they pile on dozens of charges. Then they promptly plea bargain them away. Criminals are going to jail for days instead of the years they should be.

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to reduce deaths. I am saying we shouldn’t over react. In Texas we have an issue with parents and grandparents forgetting their children in locked turned off cars during the summer. We’ve had several deaths because of this !! But should we react by restricting the rights of people who don’t leave their kids in the car?

    Bob S.

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    1. I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my post. You might be interested to know, that we do own a gun, and have had others. My husband does hunt. I have shot at targets with good accuracy.

      Your top nine causes of death are diseases that we fight tooth and nail to avoid and defeat in an effort to prolong our lives. The rate of suicide would go down without guns, I believe. I believe this is so, because it is very quick and final once you pull the trigger. With pills, there is time to back out, get found, sick up. I worked with ER patients and saw many failed suicide attempts, and without fail they were all grateful with time. Some of the other forms of suicide take considerable resolve with the facing of pain. You get the idea. I hope you will read my post Robin Williams and the Choice of Happiness.

      There is a reason families no longer keep their firearms by the door or over the fireplace, but in locked boxes. I assume you have your guns in a locked box, and your children do not have any access to the keys. Still I hear of far to many cases of children accidentally injuring those they love, or each other. I have never heard of charges being filed in such cases.

      There are many issues that you bring up that I did not choose to address in this posting: the legal system, drugs, gangs. This is a broad topic.

      The fact is firearms are treated differently.

      Lawn darts sent 6,100 to the emergency room over an 8 year period. Of these injuries 81% were children under the age of 15 with half age 10 or younger. Injuries to the face, eyes and ears resulted in permanent injury or disability. When David Snow’s daughter, Michelle, was accidentally killed by her brother he went on a crusade. As an aerospace engineer, Snow calculated that an estimated 23,000 pounds of pressure per square inch hit his daughters head. It took the coma of a second girl to prompt the recall. A third person was also killed.

      As parents we teach, closely supervise, explain the risks, introduce our children to those risks in controlled and supervised situations. Sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes, like me, you are just plain lucky. I saw the danger in the lawn darts. I believed I was taking every precaution with the lawn darts, and still my child was at risk. The fact that I did not find out about that risk until long after the danger was past did not make me feel okay with the risk I had taken. I regret putting my child at risk. I think maybe the parents of that particular 9 year old are wishing they had done something else that day. She has to live with the idea that she killed someone.

      April

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  2. Very thoughtful post; I don’t know how I missed this one originally except perhaps I hadn’t started following you yet.

    Your reply above mentions that there’s a reason families don’t keep firearms by the door or over the fireplace. I believe that choice is partially responsible for a LOT of the misuse of them.

    Think about it for a moment. When firearms were front and center everyone knew what they were for and how to use them. Children carried them when they walked or rode horseback to the one-room school house because they lived in a wilderness and there was a possibility of an animal attack. I haven’t read anything that indicates there were mass killings back then, with the exception of actual battles between the settlers and one tribe or another. People were familiar with firearms and most used them appropriately. (Billy the Kid and others notwithstanding.)

    Not that long ago, public schools offered shooting clubs. According to an article in the National Review, shooting clubs were “such a mainstay of American high-school life that in the first half of the 20th century they were regularly installed in the basements of new educational buildings.” (You can read the whole article here if you’re so inclined: http://tinyurl.com/awqgxo7).

    Today, we necessarily hide them away (wouldn’t want a child or a thief to find them). But having them hidden adds to the mystique. The wise owner keeps them locked up and controls access to the key. The wise parent however, knows that education informs and removes the mystique. Part of the key here is that children who are taught about them should also be using them regularly, at ranges or shooting competitions. The more familiar they are with firearms, the smarter they’re likely to be about when it’s appropriate to use them. Sure, it won’t stop gun violence in its tracks; I doubt anything will do that. Education about firearms won’t even stop every accidental death because we are imperfect. Guns are out there and they’re always going to be out there – legally or not. The more our children know about them, how they work, and how deadly they can be, the better.

    You believed you had educated your son properly and he was knowledgeable enough about the risks to behave responsibly. Knowledge of the risks isn’t always enough it seems. But where there is life, there will always be risks and I guess as individuals we need to decide which ones we’re willing to take. Thanks for such a thought-provoking post April! I’m glad I didn’t miss this one. 🙂

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  3. Then as now accidental shootings were a major problem. It wasn’t that people didn’t know the danger. They were so confident, that things happened. This is especially true with children.

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