Time to take aim at gun safety | Editorial

A 9-year-old boy was expelled from an elementary school in Oak Harbor last week after officials discovered that he had brought loaded guns to the school two days in a row. This week, the boy’s father was arrested on suspicion of reckless endangerment for allegedly not taking the proper precautions with the guns while there was a child in the house.

While it’s fortunate that no one was injured, the incident should serve as a reminder about gun safety. There are a lot of guns in Island County, which has a higher than average rate of gun ownership.

An Island County Public Health survey finds that 38 percent of adults in the county have guns. The department’s latest Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey found that the rates for people with loaded and unlocked guns in their homes was higher than the state average.

More alarming, a separate 2008 survey found that one in four sixth-graders in the county perceive than they can get easy access to handguns, while one in five 12th-graders perceive that handgun access is easy. A higher than average number of high school students admitted to bringing weapons to school.

The health department, Seattle Children’s Hospital and the National Rifle Association all emphasize the importance of keeping guns out of sight and out of reach of children. Gun should be kept locked and unloaded, and the ammunition should be stored separately. Parents are ultimately responsible for the behavior and safety of their children, and that responsibility doesn’t end when the child leaves the home. Even if no one in your family owns a gun, chances are that someone you know does.

It’s important, therefore, for parents to talk to children about gun safety. Here’s some advice from the NRA: Explain the rules and answer children’s questions frankly, which will help remove the mystery surrounding guns. Explain to young children the difference between gun use on TV as opposed to real life. Children should be taught this simple rule in case they find a gun: “Stop. Don’t touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult.”


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