I wanted to write about guns this week. You might read this and flip through the rest of the headlines, wondering if you’ve missed a mass shooting. (If you have, it wasn’t one of the big, splashy, national-news shootings. We didn’t have any of those this week.) But it’s totally understandable if that is your first reaction. After all, discussion about guns in America tends to kick up after mass shootings.

The focus on mass shootings makes sense, as focus on large-scale tragedies often does. After all, the motive behind them is hard for the average person to comprehend. Most of us can probably imagine using a gun, lethally if necessary, in self-defense or defense of our families. But most of us probably can’t imagine walking into a classroom and murdering a few dozen first-graders. You have to be pretty far gone to think that will somehow solve your problems.

But as horrifying as mass shootings are, they count for only a small percentage of gun injuries and deaths in America. Think of mass shootings as a thunderstorm that rolls through, while the rest of American gun deaths, the deaths that happen in ones and twos, are like a steady drip-drip-drip of water. And as any homeowner knows, a steady drip-drip-drip can do a lot more damage to your house in the long run.

We haven’t had any major mass shootings in Maine yet (and I hope to God we never do). I suspect that’s in part because of our low population. The fewer people there are in a state, the fewer chances that one of them goes off the deep end. We’re also not a rich state. Guns are expensive. But we do have quite a few gun deaths in Maine every year. In 2020, the last year for which I could find complete data, 154 Mainers were killed by guns. Three were accidental shootings. Nineteen were homicides. The other 132 were suicides. Drip. Drip. Drip.

I keep thinking about the case of Octavia Young. Just this past May in Wells, she is alleged to have been shot and killed by her 19-year-old uncle, Andrew Huber Young. Octavia wasn’t even 2 years old. Police say the gun belonged to Huber Young’s father. This one rash decision not only killed a little kid but also ruined a young man’s life and tore a hole in a family. Maybe if the gun had been properly stored and secured, she would still be alive.

We hear a lot about “gun control.” I’d like to see our politicians focus on gun safety. Specifically, safe gun storage. In 1990, there were roughly 130 cases of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) per 100,000 infants. In 2020, there were 38. This reduction in deaths coincided with an enormous nationwide educational campaign about safe infant sleeping practices (on their backs, with no blankets or toys that they can catch on to). I think we need a similar educational campaign about gun safes and trigger locks.

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Guns are expensive and gun safety is expensive. On the website for Cabela’s, the cheapest available gun safe is $19.99 and it only has room for one small handgun. The prices rise quickly from there. A four-gun safe with a biometric lock is $289.99. The cheapest trigger lock on the website is $9.99.

I may be a bleeding-heart liberal, but even I know that unfunded mandates don’t work. If we want gun owners to use gun safes and trigger locks to prevent theft or accidental misuse of their deadly weapons, we need to make it as cheap and easy as possible. We need a massive amount of government funding to make gun safes and trigger locks rain from the sky. I’m talking free gun safes handed out at every church in America. Bowls of trigger locks at doctors offices like lollipops. Would it be expensive? Sure. But you know what else is expensive? Funerals. Hospital stays. Murder trials (which taxpayers pay for). Prison sentences. (Taxpayers pay for those, too.) And heck, there are plenty of gun safety products that are made in America. We’d be investing in local economies.

Would this solve the problem of gun violence? No. Would it be an acceptable compromise? God, I hope so. What have we got to lose by trying? According to Everytown Research, in 2021 there were 392 accidental shootings by children nationwide, resulting in 163 deaths. It is true, as many pro-gun pundits point out, that if a person is truly determined to do harm, they’ll find a way to do it. But guns falling into the hands of curious kids or a smash-and-grab burglar? Those are the low-hanging fruit of gun death prevention. Let’s start there.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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