I grew up in a house with guns.
When I was four years old, my father opened his gun locker and taught me everything there was to know about bolt-action rifles. He showed me all of the parts, how they worked, and where the bullets went. I grew up with friends whose parents also kept firearms. It wasn’t a big deal to me. Guns were just a part of life. We had them the same way we had a dog and a fish tank. You see them shot, you see them cleaned, it wasn’t crazy, it was preserving the heritage of the 2nd amendment. My father is a life member of the NRA.
The NRA magazine American Rifleman was standard bathroom reading in my house. We were a “from my cold dead hands” family.
I had a friend in college who was anti-second amendment (I don’t mean this in some snarky gun control sense, she literally wanted to repeal the 2nd amendment) who told me that the way I grew up was “terrifying” — her words. I responded by explaining to her how to make bullets.
My husband, who grew up in Pennsylvania, is also from a gun family. His father owned a check cashing business in Philadelphia. When he passed away suddenly, my husband stepped in to run the business and prepare it for sale. The short version of the story is, that one afternoon in the parking lot of the bank the business used, someone came at my husband from behind and hit him in the head with a hammer in a robbery attempt. My husband turned around and shot the man as he was preparing to swing again. My husband needed to go to the hospital and get head stitches. The man he shot spent 6 weeks in the hospital (he survived). The even shorter version of this story is, if my husband did not have his gun, he would be dead. Cold dead hands dead.
My dad kept his guns in a safe. Even though my brother and I are grown (and my brother goes to the same rifle range as my father) the guns are still in a safe. I can’t get to them even if I wanted to.
The guns that are in the safe have trigger locks on them. Gun safety and security is important if you keep guns, whether you have kids or not. In New York City, if you want to purchase a rifle, there must be a trigger lock on it. If you live somewhere that doesn’t have a trigger lock law or you purchased your weapon before the lock law went into effect, get a trigger lock, and put it on your gun anyway.
Ammunition should be kept in a separate locked box.
Gun safety education is important. Even if you don’t keep guns in your home — even if you want to ban guns completely — it is important to teach your kids gun safety rules.
Here are some rules:
Every gun is loaded. It doesn’t matter if someone told you it isn’t loaded, it doesn’t look loaded, or if you personally used up all of the loaded rounds that you loaded yourself — the gun is loaded. Don’t point it at your friends, don’t point it at animals, don’t point it at anything. It’s loaded. Assume it doesn’t have a safety or a trigger lock, even if someone assured you that it does. It’s loaded and it’s an immediate danger.
If you see a gun, don’t touch it. Tell your friends not to touch it. Don’t play with it. Immediately find an adult, or call the police. If the gun is left out at a friend’s house, tell mommy or daddy about it so they can talk to the gun’s owner about it.
If your child has a friend who lives in a house with unsecured firearms, talk to the parents. If where you live has laws about locking up guns (New York City has these laws) talk to the parent about obeying these laws. If you are uncomfortable about confronting the parent ask someone for help. Leaving guns out and unsecured is irresponsible.
Firearm ownership and gun-related sport can be a fun way spend time as a family. But guns are a HUGE responsibility. If you can’t live up to that responsibility then you shouldn’t own guns.
I won’t jump into the gun control legislation debate because, honestly, I’m not sure exactly where I stand anymore — but I will say this:
The publishing (by the cold-dead hands of print media) of addresses of law-abiding citizens who happen to have gun permits alienates and villainizes reasonable people who are willing to discuss things like ammo purchase limits and assault weapon bans — and makes the gun control debate harder to have. Outing these gun owners in such a fashion can also put families in danger. Families like mine.
We need to have a calm discussion about gun ownership, gun safety, and probably ammunition purchase limits. This can’t happen if we yell inflammatory things at each other. It won’t happen if we blame each other for tragedies that happened because of the actions of a criminal. This is for both sides. Gun safety shouldn’t be political.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin is a soapmaker, cofounder and educator at Urban Babywearing, a hyperlocal Inwood blogger and organizer, a political/life/religion/parenting satirist, and all around trouble maker. She is also the creator of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Spanish-speaking alter ego @elbloombito. You can reach her via twitter @Jewyorican.