Published October 13, 2003, in The The Union Leader (Manchester NH)

Project ChildSafe; Another wasteful federal program

TRIGGER LOCKS can save lives. So can the guns on which those locks are placed. In fact, guns save many, many more lives than gun locks save. Yet the federal government is spending $50 million to distribute "free" gun locks to Americans. Perhaps a better plan would be to distribute free guns.

Dr. John Lott noted in his book "The Bias Against Guns" that in 1999 there were a total of 824 accidental deaths by shooting in the United States. Only 16 of those cases involved a child under the age of 15 being shot with a handgun. Children are more likely to be saved by a gun than accidentally killed by one. There are around 2 million defensive uses of handguns a year in the United States.

The General Accounting Office has concluded that gun locks are reliably effective only in protecting children under age seven. Dr. Lott has found "no impact of accidental gun deaths from safe storage laws," meaning laws requiring guns to be stored in inoperable ways. To the contrary, "safe storage laws are significantly related to higher murder, rape, robbery, and burglary rates."

You may save a child's life by putting a trigger lock on your gun. But the chance is greater that the lock will cost a life rather than save one.

LOAD-DATE: October 14, 2003

Note: There was one minor point about this discussion. The handgun death number for children under age 15 does not include guns for which the type of gun was not identified. (They probably meant that: "Only 16 of those cases involved a child under the age of 15 who could be identified as being shot with a handgun . . . .") About half the type of accidental gun deaths involve a gun that is not identified in the death. In any case, the deaths, while tragic, are probably much rarer than most might think.

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Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

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