One of the pleasures of living where I do is that I can read the local Sunday paper from cover to cover, stay informed and not be overwhelmed by current events. Of course, that has become harder this year, but that usually stems from national news, not the local police blotter. Unfortunately, they collide in this week’s news.
The local police blotter in a recent Sunday Banner-Herald listed six cases of gun “mishaps.” Most are listed as “gun theft,” but I’d like to reconsider that heading and replace it with “gun recklessness.” Two are cases where personal guns were taken from unlocked vehicles, and one was taken from a local gas station after the gun owner left the weapon in a bathroom stall. If I were to leave $500 in a bathroom stall and walk away, I would say that I carelessly forfeited the money. At least in that case, no one could be immediately hurt or worse from my carelessness. Leaving a gun unsecured or, worse, in a bathroom stall, is beyond carelessness. It is reckless behavior and does not strike me as “theft.” We’ve reversed the crime and criminal here. The takers of the guns were certainly opportunists, but the owners are the ones putting the rest of us at risk.
All of the gun reports are disturbing to me, but the most alarming is the report of the gun “accident” in a home not too far from the above-mentioned gas station. The incidents are unrelated except that both involve negligent behavior from a gun owner. In the second, two teens found a parent’s gun in their home, and one was nearly shot when the gun accidently discharged. The consequences could have been the parents’ worst nightmare, and one can only hope that such a scare encourages them to improve security around their firearms. But at what point can we decide that lax security is a threat not just to the children, but to all of us?
When I walk into my local grocery store, also just down the road from the gas station and neighborhood listed in the blotter, I feel safe because I recognize my neighbors and see folks I don’t know going through their regular day with their families much the way I do. I do not feel safer when I see the guy who often does his shopping with a gun and ammo belt in full display. I do not feel safer knowing that some of the shoppers are carrying concealed weapons. And now, I especially do not feel safer knowing that some of those packing can be reckless with their gun behavior to the point that their carelessness leads to near disaster in their own home.
When a motorist is found to be careless or reckless with their driving, they are cited and risk losing their license. When a business owner fails to follow local or state regulations, they are cited and risk losing their license. But when a gun owner leaves their weapons where they can do harm to others, there seem to be no consequences—at least not to them, the reckless gun owner.