Light Over Heat #7: What We Talk About When We Talk About Gun Safety

Gun safety is something that people on all sides of the Great Gun Debates in America agree is important. But I find different understandings of “safety” in play when people discuss guns.

As I have noted previously, people within the gun culture tend to focus on safety WITH guns, while people from the gun control or gun violence prevention side focus on safety FROM guns.

This is my focus in Episode 7 of “Light Over Heat.”

As examples of safety WITH guns, I mention: the emphasis on safe gun handling by professionals in the gun training community (like John Johnston), the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Project Childsafe and Own It? Respect It. Secure It, the NRA’s Range Safety Officer certification, Derek LeBlanc’s Kids S.A.F.E. Foundation, Michael Sodini’s Walk the Talk America, and Sarah Joy Albrecht’s Hold My Guns. There are many others I could have named.

As examples of safety FROM guns, I mention public health research on guns as risk factors for death and injury, Igor Volsky’s Guns Down America, and the organization Scrubs Against the Firearm Epidemic (SAFE).

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5 thoughts on “Light Over Heat #7: What We Talk About When We Talk About Gun Safety

      • Your current talk touched on some of what I would have said had we been shooting the shit on this (does anyone make targets made of shit?). The two sides of the storage debate broke down along safe with guns (the rural folks and gun owners) vs. safe from guns (the urban Democrats in high crime districts). Of course some of that reflects their experiences. The rural folks hunt and the urban folks duck bullets fired by disaffected teens.

        One of the death knell moments of that bill came when it was being heard in House Judiciary. The sponsor said that minors could not own guns and one of the opponents said minors could own guns. Came down to the difference between buying a gun vs. being gifted one by an adult. But it got downright hostile and finally, the House Speaker cut in and asked for a clarification of law, which of course, showed that there was no law against a minor “owning” a gun.

        I found the whole damn thing frustrating. I thought this could be a case of common ground and in fact met with the sponsor for a long discussion that resulted in major changes to the bill. For example, giving credit for safe storage and emphasizing that “reckless disregard” might be true for some parents (say, those Michigan folks who gifted their kid an SP 2022 and let him run wild with it) vs. thoughtful families who emphasize ethical gun ownership (I helped some friends shop for a single shot 22 rifle for their child who was learning to shoot). Still, politics became toxic, as did the “safe with” vs. “safe from” ideology based on the two very different lived experiences of people on each side of the debate.


      • So the urban folks increasingly came across as saying minors could NOT have access to guns, period, unless under adult supervision, as it created a serious risk, while the rural folks said minors routinely had access to guns on the range, on farms, and while hunting on their own (our age to hunt is much lower than 18). Thus, the bill was seen on attacking “a way of life in New Mexico”.

        Interestingly, my good friend David, a retired criminal defense attorney from NYC, shared the urban concern, i.e., a minor with a gun was a crime or accident waiting to happen as minors are too immature to be trusted with something that goes boom out of the barrel.


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