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  Originally cited at http://www.goal.org/articles/cdttriggerlocks.html

19, 1998

Triggerlocks and Airbags

Photo of C. D. Tavares

C. D. Tavares

To understand the hidden danger implicit in our government's push to require trigger locks on every gun "for the sake of the children," one first needs to know something about guns and trigger locks -- a step too many politicians skip.

Many of our politicians simply never learned that a trigger lock is not designed to secure a gun that's capable of firing -- only a gun that's already harmless.

First, an unloaded gun can't ever shoot anyone. The main danger to curious children lies in loaded, unsecured guns. People assume trigger locks will solve this.

Now, examine an actual trigger lock. The instructions molded into the side say: "DO NOT INSTALL THIS LOCK ON A LOADED GUN." Why? Because the last thing you want to be doing with a loaded gun is fooling around in the vicinity of its trigger. That's a sure formula for an accidental discharge.

Many of our politicians simply never learned that a trigger lock is not designed to secure a gun that's capable of firing -- only a gun that's already harmless. Likewise, gun control advocates who claim trigger locks "can be rapidly disengaged" for self-defense purposes misrepresent the issue. Home-protection guns are kept loaded for the same reason that spare tires are kept inflated. Certainly they need to be secured from children. But, just as we have discovered with airbags, a one-size-fits-all "remedy" of government-mandated trigger locks will instead make guns more dangerous to a large class of people.

Graphic -- Gun biting owner's hand Wait -- there's more. Did you realize that a trigger lock on an unloaded gun won't hamper a child in the least from loading and cocking that gun? Put a revolver into this state and no one can unload and make it safe without access to the (now very sensitive) trigger. Whoever removes that lock had better have very steady nerves.

What about the theft protection benefits? Forget it. For the effort of a minute at home with a hacksaw, a thief will steal a trigger-locked gun as readily as an unlocked one.

Crusaders who push trigger locks as "common-sense devices that will keep our children safe" are doing nothing more than relying on their untrained intuition as a substitute for actual knowledge. This is the same variety of "common sense" that once advised humanity that the earth was flat and the sun revolved around it.

Politicians fail the same test. Three months ago, the Springfield city council introduced a trigger-lock ordinance with great enthusiasm and imperceptible foresight. It prohibited storage of guns in blast-proof safes unless they were also "protected" by $10 trigger locks. It included guns in police officers' holsters. It even included guns being shipped to Smith & Wesson for repair. (One advocate declared this a benefit, until it was pointed out that the key would necessarily have to accompany it.)

These flaws were immediately apparent to gun owners. However, gun owners are rarely consulted when such proposals are drafted, because their sponsors too often couch them as adversarial legislation. Actual child safety concerns get lost in the politics.

So what do firearms experts recommend to keep children safe? Different hardware options exist to fit different personal situations. Simplex-lock and electronic lockboxes provide both keyless childproof security and quick access to loaded guns, plus they can be bolted down for theft prevention. For a recreational gun, a cable lock through the barrel or a common padlock around a revolver's top strap can keep it from being loaded or fired. Safes and security cabinets are available at many price points for those with multiple guns.

But the best protection is to discuss guns with your children, just as you discuss sex or drugs. Consult the child safety page at www.goal.org. Get a copy of Massad Ayoob's Gun-Proof Your Children, and learn how to defuse the "forbidden fruit" syndrome. Tell your kids that if they see a gun, they should "stop -- don't touch -- leave the area -- and tell an adult."

And do this even if your family owns no guns, because 45% of your friends and neighbors do. Don't count on some technological gimmick to absolve you of your duty to provide solid, responsible parenting.

C. D. Tavares is a certified gun safety instructor in Northboro.

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