WASHINGTON – For God's sake, if you own guns, keep them locked up.
That's the only sensible takeaway to be gleaned from the nation's latest senseless school shooting, which claimed 10 lives and left 10 wounded at Santa Fe High School in southern Texas last Friday.
The Texas tragedy was the fourth school shooting in six years that might have been prevented if the adults who were closest to the suspected shooter had been smarter about the guns in their homes.
Countless other crimes occur, too, just because gun owners don't lock up their weapons, thereby making them easy to steal.
So let's put aside America's stalemated gun control debate for the time being and instead focus on a hard but little-noticed fact: Too many gun owners exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms without exercising the responsibility that comes with it.
The common-sense step of keeping your weapons under lock and key, even if practiced en masse, won't prevent every gun crime.
But better gun storage practices could conceivably have made a difference in school shootings not only in Texas, but also in Florida, Washington State and Connecticut.
In the Texas case, the alleged shooter used his father's guns. It's not yet clear whether the father, Antonios Pagourtzis, knew his son had the weapons. But if Antonios Pagourtzis had kept his shotgun and pistol away from his 17-year-old son, that kid would have had a much harder time committing mass murder.
Similarly, the 19-year-old who slaughtered 17 people in Parkland, Fla., in February might not have had such an easy time of killing if his guardians had been tougher on him. James and Kimberley Snead took that troubled kid into their home after his mother died. They knew the kid was depressed, and yet they let him bring his guns into their home, mistakenly thinking they had the only key to the safe where the kid stored them – even though the kid bought the safe.
Ray Fryberg Jr. was even more careless. He kept his Beretta pistol in the center console of his pickup truck. His 15-year-old son, distraught over a breakup, smashed the truck window, grabbed the gun and used it to kill four of his classmates and then himself at his high school in Washington state in October 2014.
Last and certainly worst of all, Nancy Lanza encouraged her 20-year-old son's interest in guns even though she knew he was deeply troubled. She even took him to rifle ranges. In December 2012, he shot his mother with a .22 caliber rifle, then used a Bushmaster rifle to kill 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut before killing himself with a Glock. Police later found that he had easy access to his mother's gun collection.
You might think that states would have laws intended to prevent this sort of carelessness, but 22 states – including New York – don't even have child access prevention laws aimed at forcing parents to keep their guns locked up and away from children.
And no matter what the law says, plenty of people leave a gun in an unlocked closet, in their night stand, in the glove compartment.
Not surprisingly, then, an average of about 232,400 firearms were stolen in household burglaries and other property crimes nationwide each year between 2005 and 2010, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported. That agency also reported that between 2007 and 2011, people in America use their guns in self-defense about 47.140 times a year.
The gun lobby claims that defensive gun use is much more common than that, and independent researchers think that government estimate is low, too. But unless those government numbers are wildly inaccurate, it appears that people are more likely to have their gun stolen than they are to have to use it in self-defense.
There's a terrible irony here. About two-thirds of people who own guns do so to protect themselves. That being the case, many people don't want to lock up their gun because they want to keep it handy. Yet by keeping their gun handy, they make it easier to steal.
This happens even though there’s an easy solution that offers gun owners both convenience and safety. Manufacturers offer biometric gun safes that allow you to open them with the touch of a fingerprint. In fact, if you put "biometric gun safe" into Amazon's search engine, you'll find dozens of options, most costing less than $250.
Gun owners might want to invest in one even if their kids are grown, because it's not just high schoolers whose lives are endangered by guns in the wrong hands.
In fact, it might be a noble gesture to buy a gun safe in the honor of the late Officer Miosotis Familia of the New York Police Department. A 48-year-old mother of three, she died last year, shot in the head by a psychotic ex-con.
"She was ambushed by a man for the simple reason that she was a member of the police department," President Trump said last week at a ceremony for officers slain in 2017.
The murder weapon?
A handgun stolen from a home in West Virginia in 2012.
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