Let's Have a Safe and Tragedy Free 2017

Let's make sure that none of us make assumptions about what children as young as 2 years old can or cannot do.

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December 23, 2016, CLEVELAND (WEWS) - The 2-year-old son of a Cleveland police officer shot and killed himself with his dad's service weapon on Friday, according to investigators. Cleveland Division of Police spokeswoman Jennifer Ciaccia did not name the officer but said he is a 23-year veteran of the department and is 54 years old. Officers were called to a home on Library Avenue for reports that a child had been shot on Friday, Ciaccia said in a news release. The child was taken to Cleveland's MetroHealth hospital for surgery, where he later died. Preliminary information indicates that the child obtained the weapon and shot himself. Detectives are investigating the shooting.

This story hit me particularly hard when I saw it for several reasons. First, I have a son that is just six months older than the boy who lost his life in Cleveland. Second, I'm a law enforcement officer pretty close to the same age as the boy's father. Third, the boy died the day before Christmas Eve. Fourth, this tragic event was preventable and this is not the only recent example of a very young child obtaining a handgun and shooting themselves or someone else. Why was that duty handgun not locked in the officer's security duty holster (if he had that one) or in a location not accessible to his son?

I think sometimes people become lax when it comes to gun safety once they are away from the shooting range where safety rules are enforced. I also believe that over time, as experience with firearms increases, attention to safety details decreases. For these individuals the old saying "familiarity breeds contempt" can certainly be applied to firearms safety and handling.

One need look no further for a prime example of this theorem than the infamous You Tube video of a DEA agent accidentally shooting himself with a Glock .40 in front of a classroom full of children during a "gun safety" demonstration. Just before he does it, he holds up the "unloaded" Glock and pronounces that he is the only one in the room qualified to handle that Glock-and then "Boom"-he shoots himself in the leg. While the first thought when watching this video is usually "what an idiot", the point that is missed is that this incident shows what happens when you think you know so much and lose respect for-and all fear of-firearms.

Or take a look at this years the extremely ironic shooting of the Florida pro-gun firearms activist who was shot in the back with a .45 by her 4 year old while driving her car. She had put an UNHOLSTERED (seriously?) .45 Automatic pistol under her seat. As she began driving the gun slid to the back of her car and her son apparently picked it up and pulled the trigger. She was noticed by a passing deputy sheriff, stopped in traffic and waving for help. Does anyone else wonder about how her son could have reached a gun on the floor if he was properly secured in a carseat? Not a good day for the pro-gun community, or for her because beyond her injury-which could have resulted in the death of her or her son or an innocent passerby-she is facing criminal charges, which she clearly deserves. Looks like once again familiarity (and a major lack of common sense) bred contempt.

Prior to having a child I was never particularly concerned about the location of my off-duty handgun when I was at home. Any reasonable location that was handy would suffice, as I was the only one who was worried about access unless I had guests coming over.

I already had the basics of gun security covered with a gunsafe. All my firearms that aren't in use are kept locked up there. I consider the purchase of a safe a highly important investment for three reasons-protecting your investment in terms of personal property, keeping your firearms out of the hands of unauthorized persons including children, and finally keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. But there needs to be more concern for the handgun that is kept ready for defensive purposes.

Today, the only available loaded firearm in my house is my off-duty carry gun which doubles for home defense-everything else is locked up. When my son is up and about, that handgun-a five shot Smith and Wesson 642 .38 revolver with a ten pound trigger pull, is kept up high and holstered. As he grows a bit more, that handgun will be kept in a quick opening lock box. I might also opt for a DeSantis Gunhide F.F.D.O. belt holster with lock holes in it. This allows you to run a padlock behind the trigger of a holstered handgun through a set of small ports making it impossible for a child to remove the handgun. There are many options available which combine security with quick access.

When outside my home, I also make sure that my off-duty gun is carried on my body where no one else can physically get to it. Remember the 2014 incident in a Wal-Mart in Idaho where a mother was shot to death by her 2 year old son in a Wal-Mart after he got his mom's handgun which was loose and unattended in her purse? Because of her carelessness and the assumption that a 2 year old could not fire a handgun, her son will have to forever live with knowing he accidentally killed his own mother.

For 2017, let's make sure that none of us making assumptions about what children as young as 2 can or cannot do. You can still keep your defensive handgun ready for action and still safe from access by young children. Remember that some handguns are easier to operate by young children that others, so choose carefully. You can never recover from the tragic mistakes I've outlined. If you need more safety tips, please turn to the NRA or the U.S. Concealed Carry Association for assistance and advice. And always stay just a little bit fearful of-and respectful of-firearms.