Friday, May 30, 2014

Stupid, stupid, STUPID

It's probably true in most states:  leaving your keys in your car is illegal as well as irresponsible.  Ohio statutes, for instance, state that:
  "No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from the ignition, effectively setting the parking brake, and, when the motor vehicle is standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway." Ohio Revised Code 4511.661(A)
One might think the same logic would apply to leaving a loaded gun lying around and particularly where unauthorized people and children might get to it. One would be right, at least in Homestead, Florida where Juan Manuel Martinez, Jr. described as a hard working truck driver and part time volunteer youth baseball coach handed his father a loaded AK-47 at a party and just to show it off.

For no sane reason, here was a 7.62X39 round in the chamber and the safety was off  when Juan Sr. put it down on a picnic table where his six year old grandson saw it and pulled the trigger. Grandpa Juan Sr. was dead before he got to the hospital.  According to the news, alcohol and perhaps some other drugs were involved as one so often hears when idiotic and ignorant things pertaining to firearms and cars are done.

Yes, this is a huge country and one in a million is a big number,  but one still hears too many stories like this.  It's not superfluous to say that according to the time honored principle of always treating any firearm as loaded even when you know for damn sure it isn't, the thing never should have been anywhere near a minor or displayed where there's a party and people are drinking -- or displayed at all in the opinion of this writer.

Again, Florida law holds Martinez Jr. responsible and he now faces charges of culpable negligence of a firearm with easy access to a minor.  I'm sure he wasn't aware of the law and wasn't thinking about it, if in fact, he was thinking anything beyond "hey look at my cool toy"  Which makes me wonder how effective laws are when practically no one reads or understands or knows about them.  We constantly hear there aren't enough of them and simultaneously that there are too many of them but the most heated proclamations of that sort rarely involve specifics.  Neither side of the great gun divide really likes specifics because those lead to reason and interfere with the zealotry.

Now Martinez didn't need any kind of permit to own that weapon and wasn't required to take any kind of training or pass any kind of test.  If he had, perhaps he might be surprised like so many are, by how difficult the laws are to understand even for lawyers, but he would, even with the meager level of education for a permit in Florida, been aware that to do what he did was illegal even if he didn't realize it was massively stupid.

In fact although I'm licensed to carry a concealed weapon, I'm scared to do it because of laws that can make it illegal to use a gun to frighten an assailant or to display it in anger -- but not to kill him with it.  You'll recall the Florida woman sentenced to 20 years for using a gun to warn off someone against whom she had a restraining order.  Is it so awful to think that requiring someone to learn the relevant laws and rules of safety might not really run afoul of the second amendment? 

But I'm not going to get into the need for more or less in the way of legislation, I'm going to argue against ignorance and for teaching the public about what they can and cannot do, about what they should and shouldn't do with a dangerous thing like a gun.  the people who used to make it a business to teach safety have gone rogue and turned paranoid -- the other side is also often so paranoid that it fears safety education will interfere with their mission and in a nation so well armed and poorly informed there is a need no one is there to fill.

Of course there is far less sturm und drang when it comes to the equally tragic weekly stories of kids left in hot cars to die, strangled by pet snakes, drowned in pools and swimming holes, beaten, neglected, poisoned and starved.  Our concerns about guns are too choreographed and involve so many stereotypes and straw men and political shibboleths to leave us room to consider that child safety has so much to do with informed and responsible adult behavior.  Reducing the stupid factor might just be an effective way to reducing such tragedy whether it's about pools, hot tubs, hot cars and hot lead and it is something we can start to do right now and without having to resolve our passionate differences.  Can't we all agree?

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