A lesson in firearms safety

Education efforts: Minimum training for new gun owners better than nothing, but what about kids?

January 04, 2002

THE NEW Year arrived in a burst of gunfire. Some 100 people were arrested in Baltimore, and four were wounded, because of the senseless use of deadly firearms to celebrate the holiday.

This sad annual ritual highlights the willful abuse of lethal weapons in our society despite growing efforts to promote gun safety. It's also a reflection of the widespread proliferation of firearms, with more than 1 million handguns circulating in a state of 5 million residents.

The state took a timid step this week with new requirements for "training" of new gun owners. The new law requires a one-time class of no more than two hours, held at convenient times and locations, for anyone purchasing a new firearm.

It's a minimum effort, with a 40-minute video and focusing on paperwork registration. The law states that no test is required.

Will that squelch the brainless merrymakers who think that firing a bullet is equivalent to banging a pan? Probably not. But this new law is at least better than giving someone a safety booklet and hoping they read it.

Sadly, however, Gov. Parris Glendening doesn't believe strongly enough in gun safety education for kids. He vetoed legislation to require school systems to have firearms safety programs for all grades, kindergarten through high school.

Counties would have put together their own grade-appropriate instruction. The governor quibbled with the option of allowing older kids to learn safe handling of firearms at a firing range.

Fortunately, some counties are taking the initiative of providing gun safety instruction in their schools. Carroll County is the first in Maryland to require it in all grades. The purpose is not to promote gun ownership but to teach proper respect for firearms safety.

Gun deaths among children are on the decline. Part of that drop is due to tougher gun laws.

But safety education efforts are also surely a key factor. And that is a lesson fit for adults as well as for youngsters.

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