Monday, August 14, 2006

NBC Bunkola: "Ask if there's a gun in the home"

NBC has deep wisdom, and needs to share with us imbiciles. In an ASK (Asking Saves Kids) public-service announcement, some guy comes on and says some stuff about nothing, and then: "Ask if there's a gun in the home." And with that smug, self-righteous, Hollywood "I care" look on his face. Argh! Ask if there's a gun in the home... and then what? No advice there, just ask. Make for an uncomfortable scene between you and your kid's friend's parents.

Stickwick interjecting:

The motive is understandable. This opinion piece from MSNBC puts the ASK (Asking Saves Kids) campaign in the context of a case in which a 13-year-old boy visiting a friend's house is fatally shot in the face by a 9-year-old with easy access to a handgun. No doubt, the parents of the friend are absolutely to blame in this case. But the issue here isn't whether there were guns in the home, but whether they were stored properly and the children were educated about how to handle guns. If the ASK ad encouraged parents to be aware of their friends' parents' attitudes about gun safety, the ad would make more sense.

The author of the piece, Rabbi Marc Gellman, is good enough to mention that gun-confiscation is unconstitutional and doesn't seem to think it's the answer. However, he does a disservice by mentioning an unreferenced and misleading statistic -- that gun violence is responsible for nearly 2,900 deaths amongst children annually ("a 9/11-worth of young people every year"). Some groups put the number as high as 5,000 annually. However, concealed by these numbers is the breakdown by age and the type of activity involved in the deaths. The "children" in gun-violence statistics include adults up to the age of 23, and are cited by anti-gun groups to hype the "epidemic" nature of gun-related deaths amongst children. What these numbers don't tell you is that most deaths for "children" in the 15-24 age group are the result of gang-related activity. Asking if there's a gun in the home won't solve that problem.

How much of an issue is accidental shooting of children? The 2002 statistics from the CDC claim that out of a total of 5,305 accidental deaths of children aged 0-14 years, firearms were involved in 60, just over 1%. Tragic? Without a doubt. Epidemic? No.

Gellman has also failed to do his homework about the folks behind ASK, a group called Pax (the MSNBC article gives the wrong URL). He claims that Pax isn't calling for gun confiscation, and works with both sides of the gun debate. Indeed a cursory glance around the website seems to support that. The co-founder and CEO of Pax, Daniel Gross, has an understandable motive for promoting firearms awareness, as his younger brother was critically wounded in a shooting. But, given the strange details of the incident, in which a 69-year-old Palestinian tourist smuggled a handgun to the top of the Empire State Building and opened fire, it's unclear how the ASK campaign would have been able to prevent it. Pax's neutrality on the confiscation issue isn't completely evident. It has the support of the Bradys, who are not ideologically neutral on the gun-control issue, but what about the NRA (which does quite a bit to promote gun safety) or other pro-gun advocacy groups? KABA refers to Pax as "gun-grabbers," and as an interesting aside, mentions that it more or less burned down Woodstock '99 by giving out 100,000 lit "peace-candles" to drunk/stoned teenagers. (Idea for new NBC safety ad campaign: "Is your activist group using fire?")

Consider the motivation for the founding of Pax. A tragic incident to be sure, but what could have been done to prevent it? New York already had very restrictive gun-control measures in place at the time, and they did nothing to prevent this crime. But, more to the point, it's confusing how attempted murder by an adult is related to accidental shootings of children -- by children -- in homes.

The safety of "The Children" is a classic anti-gun talking point, meant to play on the fears of people who are naive about guns and gun safety. It's disingenuous at best, outright deceitful at worst. Given that more children die each year as a result of car accidents, drownings, fires, accidental falls and poisonings, a public campaign promoting safety in these areas would be more effective in saving the lives of as many children as possible. I support the promotion of safe storage and handling of guns in the home 100%, especially if there are children present, but the NRA already does a lot in this regard. Perhaps a better ad campaign for those concerned about children's safety would encourage parents to ask, "Is there a pool in your backyard?" and demand to know what kind of supervision is provided.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Nimrod45 said...

You say: "But the issue here isn't whether there were guns in the home, but whether they were stored properly"

I say "horse puckey". The issue here is education - primarilly educating your kids not to touch stuff that doesn't belong to you!

Next is educating all young people with age-appropriate safe firearms handling and shooting techniques in our schools. Safe gun handling is a life skill from which everyone could benefit. Leaving gun education up to TV is just a recipie for disaster.

ALL so-called "safe storage" laws are bogus. For just a few reasons why see one of my treatises at:

http://home.cogeco.ca/~akimoya/rfc/safe.storage.html

Gun safety is a state of mind.

8/15/2006 7:16 AM  
Anonymous Astroprof said...

When I was just old enough to understand guns, my Dad took me out to my grandfather's farm along with the handgun that he kept in the master bedroom closet for my Mom's protection when he was out of town. He stood beside me, pointed it at a muddy patch a little way in front of us near the water trough, and fired. As a child, I had NEVER heard anything so loud. It made a huge hole in the mud, and mud splattered everwhere. He then told me that guns are not toys, and they are made for adult hands only. He had me convinced that if I handled one that it would be dropped with the barrel poining up and would blow my head off. That was enough to keep me from going near it. In fact, that reinforced the forbidden nature of his closet. A number of years later he taught me to shoot, but I never forgot that first lesson. Even today, almost four decades later, I remember that lesson, and I am cautions about my own guns. The best safety is education.

8/15/2006 8:45 AM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

Nimrod,

You are correct, age-appropriate education is vital, and I have updated the post to reflect that. However, you can't count on kids to do the right thing all the time, and education is moot if other children are in your house and nobody has taught them gun safety. Proper storage takes care of the unpredictables.

BTW, nobody on this site advocates safe-storage laws.

Astroprof,

Your dad was wise to do that.

8/15/2006 9:13 AM  
Blogger Rusticus said...

Maybe the question should be "Is your child in a gang?"

I keep my guns in a safe and I bring them out once in awhile to show my kids and tell them, every time, these are not toys and if they see one, the best thing to do is find an adult.

And then I lock the guns back up again.

8/16/2006 8:13 AM  
Anonymous Nimrod45 said...

Stickwick said:

You are correct, age-appropriate education is vital, and I have updated the post to reflect that. However, you can't count on kids to do the right thing all the time, and education is moot if other children are in your house and nobody has taught them gun safety.


Well, as I said, this should be part of the curriculum in ALL our schools, for ALL children, unless they are specifically exempted by their parents. Firearms safety is a life skill that everyone can benefit from.


Proper storage takes care of the unpredictables.


"Appropriate" storage for your own particular living conditions is, indeed, important, and should, of course, be left up to the individual. But nothing beats education, and on top of that add "parental supervision". I guess the question to any visiting kid should be "have you had any firearms safety training?".

Let's face it - we all knew where the key to our dad's handgun case was, even if we never used it (honest!).


BTW, nobody on this site advocates safe-storage laws.


Sorry, I guess I was coming from a Canadian perspective where highly restrictive "safe storage" laws are federally mandated.

8/17/2006 3:37 PM  
Blogger Stickwick Stapers said...

Nimrod,

Where in Canada are you from?

Carnaby and I were born in Oregon, but grew up in Northern B.C. and then later moved to Vancouver. Twenty years all together. So we totally understand the Canadian perspective on firearms restrictions. In a word: BLECH!

But we definitely have an all-American attitude towards guns. ;-)

8/18/2006 9:07 AM  

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