The above story has been shared with me no less than six times over the past twenty-four hours. I’m sure in the next twenty-four I’ll get another ten links, messages, tagged in a few more Facebook comments or asked, “Did you hear about the woman who’s son shot her in Wal-Mart?”
While I initially balked at the assault to my inbox I suppose I understand it.
I’m twenty-nine years old. The same age as the mother. I have three children. One of them just days past her third birthday. And I carry a gun.
I’ve carried a gun longer than I’ve been a mother. In fact, day in and day out since the days my three little ones were born my children have spent more time in the presence of a gun than they have spent at zoos, parks, pools, and possibly with other children. If they have been in my presence, they’ve been in the presence of a gun.
I could say that but for the grace of God, a couple hundred hours of professional firearms training and a strict adherence to safe gun handling practices this could be me. I could be dead in a Wal-Mart. Shot to death by my own gun in the hand of my baby whom I carry to protect. The irony could almost be funny if it weren’t so tragic.
As I type these words dozens upon dozens of pro-gun bloggers are out there writing about how and why this could happen and what we can do to prevent it. They are listing things like keeping positive control of your firearm at all time, keeping gun bags away from children, making sure your firearm is secured in a quality holster and teaching your children about safe gun handling. Many of them are probably demonizing off-body (or purse) carry (rightfully so in this case) and maybe even lashing out at the mother for her irresponsibility and complacency.
Some not-so-pro-gun writers and opinion-spewers are also making sure we put blame squarely on the shoulders of the gun. Oh, and the NRA. Because you can’t blame one without the other. They are calling gun owners like myself crazy and questioning why any of us would take a gun to Wal-Mart, especially with our children in tow.
I get it. I do.
People like something to blame. Guns are a pretty fine target to aim all that rage at. It’s just like the car that backed over the toddler playing in the driveway. The pool that drowned the boy. The medication or household chemicals that poisoned, the tree that was fallen from, the pharmacy screw up or the car seat that wasn’t strapped correctly.
In case you missed it, there was a theme going on there. It was people. People screw up. People and their acts of complacency and ignorance are what kills kids. And sometimes tragic accidents happen through a series of unfortunate events that no one could have ever foreseen.
And while we’re talking about people to blame for this mother’s death. Let me tell you who I blame.
I blame you!
You, the anti-gun activist who told her she shouldn’t have a gun but couldn’t give her a better option to protect herself and her little ones so she put the gun in her purse anyway.
You, the pediatrician who asked if there are guns in the home but couldn’t recommend any safer advice than, “Get rid of it.”
You, the Facebook friend who would post 100 times a day about car seat safety but not once about gun safety.
You, the relative who would put 1,000 hours into studying the safest stroller to buy for the new mother but not a second into what constitutes a good gun purse or holster.
As long as you are willing to deny reality and advocate unreasonable measures these things will continue to happen.
The reality is that there are almost as many guns as citizens in the US and that number is rising. The reality is that there are processes in place that allow average citizens to carry firearms on their persons in public in all 50 states. As many as six states allow the concealed carry of firearms by citizens without any permits and trainingwhatsoever. Gun ownership is on the rise and so is the number of concealed carry permits being issued, especially to women.
Guns are not going anywhere and to act as though they are is irresponsible.
Years ago we discovered that young men and young women were having sex. No matter how much we told them not to do it until they got married it still happened. And as a result we had lots of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. We tried harder to tell them to stop having sex and it didn’t work. Finally, someone advocated that instead of being unrealistic about sex it was time to face reality and start educating kids about safe sex. Teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases decreased.
When we embrace reality and decide to address it in a reasonable manner we do great things.
We faced the reality that kids ride in cars and are vulnerable because of it. We’ve made amazing seats for them and advocated their safe use to the point that complete strangers who have never had children can tell whether your car seat practices are safe or not. We have whole groups of mothers who come together to advocate safe babywearing, safe sleeping and safe play.
But a mom can still go to a gun store, get a gun, put it in her purse and not know the safety risks. If she tries to talk about it instead of getting reasonable, realistic recommendations on how she may safely own and carry a gun around her child she is blasted with judgment about how she shouldn’t have that gun in the first place.
She’s been alienated and left that much more vulnerable to error.
We, in the gun community do what we can. By law we are required to give out gun safety pamphlets and child locks with the guns that are sold but we have no control over how they are used. We arrange classes that few come to, but you won’t put up our fliers because you don’t like guns. You wouldn’t help us get funding or access to do gun safety talks in schools and libraries and other public places. You would say it has no place in school ignoring the fact that kids are getting access to guns and accidentally killing themselves and others. You would rather tell me that I’m a terrible mother for having a gun than listen to my tips on how I’ve managed to carry a gun around my children for over six years safely.
And in doing so you are the one who is making gun safety inaccessible. You are the one who is shutting down the conversation on how to keep these things from happening. You are the one hampering the information that could have saved this woman’s life.
I don’t know all the details. She could certainly have been a woman just like me. She could have had the hundreds of hours of training and preparation and known better and that complacency and lack of judgment is what got her killed. It happens.
But more than likely, she’s like the hundreds of women I run into day after day after day. The women who have guns but have no idea how to store them. They have no idea how to safely carry them and they don’t feel like they have access to that information. Their pediatricians don’t know and she doesn’t feel comfortable asking because of the judgment she might receive. There’s no poster on the library wall reminding them to keep their firearm away from children but it’s okay to alienate her further with the picture of a gun with a big red X through it. They can’t ask you because instead of directing them towards a credible source you will judge them for their decisions to be armed.
Instead of being part of the problem, start helping. Stop advocating for unrealistic measures like bans on guns or forbidding carry in certain places. It’s not working. Instead, start advocating safe gun practices. Accept that there are guns in this country and that people will carry them. If the manpower of the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America would redirect their focus to real, reasonable safety measures what a benefit for reducing accidental gun deaths they would be!
Learn about gun safety yourself.
Learn safe storage in the home.
Learn what makes a safe holster system for carrying in public.
Learn about the safety issues with purse carry.
Learn what a safe gun purse looks like.
Share what you’ve learned. It’s okay to be honest and say, “I’d rather you didn’t have a gun at all, but since you do and I care about you and your safety, I want you to do it as safely as possible.”
Let’s be realistic and foster real, positive change.
And may the family find comfort in their time of loss.