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Bucking the gun lobby may save a kid's life


When I was in the fourth grade, I was playing at a friend's house when he took his sister's shotgun out of a closet, put it up against my head and pulled the trigger.

To my relief (and to the inestimable good fortune of you, my readers) the shotgun simply made a loud clicking noise.

Why do 10-year-olds do such dumb things? Because they're 10-year-olds.

My friend was not a particularly violent kid. In fact, he was a pretty nice guy. And he told me his sister always kept the gun unloaded.

Not all kids, however, are as lucky as I was.

On April 8, 1991, a 10-year-old girl from Severna Park was shot and critically injured by her 11-year-old playmate who had found a handgun on a basement shelf.

On June 21, 1991, a 14-year-old Baltimore kid was playing with the loaded handgun his mother kept in the bedroom and shot his 13-year-old girlfriend in the head. She died six days later.

On June 23, 1991, a 6-year-old Harford County boy shot his 3-year-old brother with a loaded gun he found in their home.

The list goes on and on. There is case after case in Maryland of kids finding guns and shooting themselves or each other with them.

And nationally about one child a day is killed with a handgun.

You can blame the kids for these accidents. But they are, after all, just kids. It's the parents who decide to have a gun in the house and it's the parents who leave them lying around.

On October 1, however, this will become a crime in Maryland.

Due to the efforts of a legislature that is showing increasing willingness to buck the gun lobby, Attorney General Joseph Curran, Governor Schaefer, Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse and doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Maryland will have one of the toughest child accident protection laws in America.

And it will become the responsibility of all adults in Maryland to keep loaded firearms out of the reach of all children under 16.

If you don't, you can be arrested and fined $1,000.

What does "out of reach" mean? Just that.

If your kid is an infant, on top of the refrigerator is probably out of reach. But if your kid is old enough to climb up there, you are going to have to find another place to keep your gun or you are going to have to keep it in a lock box.

Trigger locks will not satisfy the law, by the way, and the law covers not just handguns but includes rifles and shotguns, too.

The responsibility to find a safe place for your guns is yours.

I know this will upset a lot of people who believe they need to keep guns handy and loaded in case an intruder breaks into their homes. This is why so many gun owners keep loaded pistols next to their beds.

They fantasize that they will hear a noise, snatch up the gun from the bed stand, see the intruder looming in the doorway, fire and save themselves and their loved ones from harm.

In reality, however, a person groggy from sleep, startled, afraid, grabs up a handgun and is very unlikely to hit anything. Or, if the person does manage to hit something, statistics indicate he is far more likely to hit an innocent spouse, child, or the houseguest he forgot was staying over.

According to Vinny DeMarco, board president of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse: "Unfortunately, statistics show that a gun in a private home is 43 times more likely to be used against a member of the family than in self-protection."

A lot of people now want guns in their houses because of what happened in Los Angeles recently. Gun sales are way up in California and elsewhere around the country.

But the reason the Los Angeles riots were so violent was not because good people didn't have guns, but because too many people, good and bad did have them.

The sole Korean merchant killed in the rioting, for example, was shot by other merchants who thought he was a looter.

Following the Rodney King beating verdict, rioting also broke out in Toronto. Though violent, there were no shootings and no deaths.

It is very tough to get a gun in Canada.

In the Los Angeles rioting, 52 people were killed.

It is very easy to get a gun in America.

I think that should tell us something.

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