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Column: Let's be thoughtful when it comes to guns
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Column: Let's be thoughtful when it comes to guns

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I thought we were making progress — maybe getting a little smarter and a whole lot less political.

When the state passed a series of gun control measures earlier this year, there seemed to be a muted response, unlike six years ago when the SAFE Act was passed.

There seemed to be acceptance and far less pandering from those who hold public office.

Earlier this week, a measure to require gun owners to secure their weapons if they have children under 16 living or visiting them was passed by the state Senate and Assembly. It appears on its way to becoming law.

This is one of those “I can’t believe this isn’t a law already” scenarios.

But then this statement from our local Assemblyman Dan Stec was released to the public:

“Since taking office I have been a strong advocate of the Second Amendment and protecting rights of gun owners in the North Country. Yesterday (Monday), a bill was brought to the floor that I had serious concerns with that would restrict law-abiding gun owners’ rights when it comes to to how they can store their firearms in their homes. This legislation unnecessarily puts more restrictions on gun owners and is unenforceable by law enforcement.”

It was the type of political pandering I had hoped we were getting past.

Dan Stec was a respected supervisor in Queensbury for many years, and if he was going to oppose legislation designed to protect children, I hoped he would give it more thought.

The National Rifle Association might as well have written the statement for him.

It turns out that a survey done by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that almost 50 percent of gun owners already secure their weapons in a gun safe, cabinet or with a trigger lock — because, I suspect, it is the pragmatic thing to do to keep their children safe.

The new law does not infringe on anyone’s right to purchase or use a firearm, as Stec’s statement implies. It is another example of a politician retreating to tried and tested talking points they believe will make them more popular.

This ridiculous notion that there is an assault on the Second Amendment has got to end.

We are better than that.

There are an estimated 4.6 million children who live in homes with unsecured guns.

An investigation by USA Today and the Associated Press found that 113 children and teens were killed by unintentional firearm discharges in 2014. It happened just down the road in Wilton not too long ago.

The Centers for Disease Control did a study in 2017 and found that approximately 500 minors take their own lives each year.

And the U.S. Education Department reported 1,600 incidents of guns being brought to school in the 2015-16 school year.

How are all these children getting access to firearms?

Finally, another survey done by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern found that gun owners who don’t lock up their guns are more than twice as likely to have their guns stolen.

The people who make guns market them to prey on the fears of individuals.

Not taking precautions with their firearms is what they should fear.

Research shows that securing weapons is the one thing that does work.

If gun owners want to be reckless because of irrational fears of criminals coming through the window at night, I suppose that is their right, but if the troubled teen living under their roof goes on a rampage, or decides to end their own life, or if a curious 9-year-old shoots their best friend with dad’s pistol found unsecured in a nightstand drawer, then there needs to be consequences.

I doubt that Assemblyman Stec’s thoughts and prayers will mean much to the family.

Ken Tingley is the editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at tingley@poststar.com. His blog, “The Front Page,” discusses issues about newspapers and journalism. You can also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/kentingley.

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