In 2008, a 3-year-old managed to shoot himself in the head at the home of a family friend, with his mom and brother just a few feet away. It took him only a few seconds to find the gun and pull the trigger. The man who owned the gun was in the Army, and he said he kept it loaded “for protection.”

There are two things people need to understand about the gun safety debate:

  1. Gun owners who keep a loaded weapon for self-protection don’t just endanger themselves and their own kids with this decision. They are a threat to children throughout the community.

  1. A gun kept for “protection” is by definition a gun that is kept loaded and accessible, which opens the door for every potential hazard. So the more people we have carrying loaded weapons around with them everywhere they go, the more your children are at risk.

As discussed in our section on gun statistics, more than a third of gun owners store their guns in a reckless manner, and when someone is toting a gun around with them, it all but ensures lapses in judgment and moments of carelessness. There’s the storing of the gun underneath the pillow or on the nightstand each night, bringing it down and setting it on the counter as you get ready for work, putting it in your pocket or holstering it, placing it on the side seat or glove compartment when you get in the car, taking it (or not taking it) with you when you stop for gas, taking it out again when you get to work, toting it around to the office, the bathroom, the store, the gym; back in the glove compartment on your way home to work, lay it on the counter when you come in, and so on. Then repeat the same motions day after day. That’s a whole lot of holstering and un-holstering, a lot of moving and setting it about. And guns are cumbersome. They poke and prod at you, they are awkward to carry and weigh you down. This means there’s a natural inclination to relieve yourself of it from time to time, especially when sitting or driving. Many women adopt the dangerous habit of keeping a gun in their purse, which means a loaded weapon is easily accessible wherever that purse is set down, often right on the floor where children can grab it. Human nature being what it is, the type of vigilance required for true safety typically lasts no more than a week or two. People get lazy, and they get complacent. When this happens, they become dangerous … to everyone around them.

A 4-year-old girl was shot and killed as she sat in a car outside her grandfather’s home. She and two other children (both believed to be under the age of 10) were waiting in a white Mercedes-Benz that evening while an adult stood nearby. Somehow or another, one of the kids got hold of the gun, shooting Rahquel Carr in the upper body. Both the handgun and the car belonged to another person who wasn’t present and hasn’t been charged. (Wall Street Journal, 4-1-2013)

In Fairbanks, Alaska, a 4-year-old was visiting a pawn shop when he stumbled across an unsecured weapon. According to police Sgt. Bruce Barnett, the boy was visiting the pawn shop with his father. He and a store employee’s l-year-old son found the gun and started playing with it. A loud bang was heard, and the father turned to find his son with a silver revolver in his hands. Lucky for everyone in this case, the gun was pointed up, and the round only struck the ceiling. It could have been much worse. Police say the gun belonged to a store worker. (USA Today, 5-2-2012, p. 7A)

In Colorado Springs, a man was recovering from a leg wound after he dropped his gun and it went off while he was mowing the lawn. Police say he had the loaded handgun in his pocket when it fell out, struck the sidewalk and discharged. (USA Today, 5-22-2012, p. 7A) Had any children been playing nearby and the gun dropped in a different direction, one of them could have just as easily taken a bullet to the head.

“There’s also the fact that where there are more guns, more opportunities exist for people to steal them and use them nefariously,” notes Melinda Wenner-Moyer (2017, p 58). More guns in the community ultimately means more guns getting into the wrong hands.