P1 readers respond to Kids & Guns mailbag


The L.A. Times reported last week that LAPD officer Enrique Chavez was shot in the chest by his 3-year-old son. The child got hold of the officer's service weapon while the officer was stopped at a red light.

The bullet pierced though the officer's chest from the backseat, where the child was sitting unrestrained.  [Related article]

Fortunately the LA Times reported today that the officer is now in fair condition. [Related article]

This story raised many important questions about child gun safety. We wanted to know what you thought. [Read the original mailbag article]

We asked you to send in your responses to the following questions:

• Where do you keep your service weapon when you are off duty?

• What methods have you used to teach your children about gun safety?

• What personal experiences have you had with this topic?

• What does your spouse think?

As usual we received an excellent response from our readers. Below are a few of those responses.

Stay safe out there,

P1 News Editor Lindsay Gebhart

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Detective Douglas Keener with the Reading (PA) PD:

I’ve been a police firearms instructor since 1989 but never thought much about home safety. Even after my first child was born in 1991 I kept a loaded gun in my dresser drawer next to my bed. I used to tell myself that my daughter would never find my gun. Then, one morning while my wife was at work, I had got out of the shower and walked into the bedroom to find my 18-month-old daughter walking around with my loaded gun in her hands. This could have easily been a tragedy but instead turned into a serious wake-up call and a valuable lesson for me. Since then I purchased a gun safe where I keep all of my firearms and ammunition ... except my carry gun. This is still kept in my bedroom but is now unloaded and has a trigger lock on it. I have since added a section on home safety to my lesson plan and preach this to every officer I instruct. This should be taught by every police firearms instructor.

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Sergeant Raymond Meyer with the CHP:

I've always kept a loaded hand gun immediately accessible at night or when I was sleeping. Otherwise the firearm was placed in the top dresser drawer, or on the top shelf in the closet, always loaded. I also told both my children about all my guns and allowed them to touch, feel and handle (always unloaded). Went over basic safety rules, etc.

When my son was about 8 yrs old, I was in a HQ assignment and assisted our department armorer with test firing various weapons (new, repaired, recently purchased, demonstrators, etc). On one occasion I was able to bring my son with me, and under some strict controls/safety rules/procedures, he was allowed to shoot some firearms. Targets were 1 gallon plastic milk bottles with water. He was quite impressed.

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S.C. Constable Ed DeVore:

I am a constable (volunteer) so while I do not carry as part of my job I do carry concealed at all times when I am not working at my job (policy prevents it). When I am home, my weapons are always in one of two places; in my electronic combination locked gun safe, or on my person concealed (never on the dresser, the closet shelf, a drawer or any other unsafe place. That is my personal rule and I live by it). I prefer a weapon be ready for action when I retrieve it so they are stored loaded.

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Lieutenant Rafael Aguirre with the Roma (TX) PD:

I agree with taking out the curiosity of guns with children. I have two girls, 13 and 7, who have been taught since early age that a gun is not a toy and have been allowed to observe first hand the damage they can do. By allowing them to shoot at sealed soda cans, they readily grasped the power behind a gun.

We all love our kids more than anything but by not teaching them proper gun safety and helping them understand just what a gun is, we are just opening ourselves for tragedy as we now learn from our brother officers.

Take time to teach your kids the proper way to handle themselves and respect guns. Of course, responsibility can't be laid solely on them either. Meet 70/30 by proper storage at home and don't make them readily available.

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Code Enforcement Officer David Mason from Del Norte County, CA :

When I re-married, my wife already had two children ages 19 and 17. Since both kids were proficient with firearms and knew gun safety rules, I thought that my gun collection would be perfectly safe in a locked closet.

I couldn't have been more wrong. I came home from work one day and sat on something hard wedged between the cushions of my living room sofa. It was a spare magazine for one of my pistols, that should have been safely locked in the closet. I didn't know how it got out of the closet, and I didn't care. The next morning I purchased a rather expensive gun safe and put all of the guns and ammunition inside. I also purchased a rather sturdy lock box (made of 1/4 inch plate steel) to keep my ready weapon safe.

"From children, you must expect childish actions"

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Major Michael Copeland with the Franklin County (MO) SO:

I taught both of my children at an early age that my duty firearms where never to be handled without supervision and never without discussing it with me or my wife. We went to the range and let them experience first hand the destructive potential of firearms inappropriately handled. Allowing them to shoot, I believe, took away most of the "mystic" of firearms. They were also instructed that guest friends were not to ever be allowed access to my weapons. I also took their friends to the range if it was ok with the parents.

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Officer J. Buford Tune (ret.) with the Metro Nashville (TN) PD:

One of the best lessons I saw was a father at a range with his son shooting. The little boy was about six or so. He took a water melon, set it up and told his son to shoot it with his hand gun. After shooting the water melon they went to inspect it and the father pointed out that if this was a head of a person what would have happen. I will never forget the look on his son's face. It is like a new beginning to him, and he shook his head in an understanding way.

Teach your children, do not just tell them. Go back to the training in the academies, remember the show and tell classes: We caught on quicker and it stuck with us longer. So why not do this with our children as well. Spend some time with them and show them yourself, or maybe you would rather some punk in their school show them!

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