“Good” Gun Safety or “Bad” Gun Safety?

Pennsylvania Senate Democrats put out a press release about an event hosted by a state senator on “gun safety.” I immediately wondered whether this version of “gun safety” was about gun control or actually using firearms safely. It’s tough to say:

State Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) joined with several law enforcement officials today to hold a gun safety event at her district office. The event was intended to promote safe handling and storing of personal firearms.

“Proper storage and handling of firearms, especially in homes with small children, is crucial,” Schwank said. “It is my hope that through this event and the information we provide here today, more gun owners can keep their families safe through proper gun storage.”

At the event, Sen. Schwank and Berks County District Attorney John Adams discussed the importance of properly securing guns with a gun lock.

There’s nothing in there that indicates a call for more gun control. But, we also know that the last Democratic candidate for governor kept using vague talking points on “gun locks” that actually translated into mandatory locked storage that has already been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court – so some of her colleagues do have a history of taking some rather extreme liberties with the topic of gun locks as a matter of policy. Hopefully, she meant this event as strictly education and outreach rather than endorsing any kind of further restrictions on how we use firearms.

Unfortunately, there’s no grade on an NRA questionnaire by which to guide any assumptions about policies that may have been discussed. Her district, while certainly home to many local anti-gun politicians, was previously held by an NRA A-rated lawmaker who won their endorsement. The other potential signal for us would be the previous Castle Doctrine vote in the Senate, but that was on March 8 and she wasn’t elected until March 15 and did not actually take office until April 5. The only vote on the bill since she’s been in office has only been in a committee.

UPDATE: From a reader who attended the event: “I was at this event, and spoke with the Senator afterwards. For disclosure let me state that I volunteered with Medaglia’s campaign against her.

She supports HB40, and we should see her vote on that this week. She also thinks that current law is ‘sufficient’ when it comes to storage of firearms. So at this time at least she is not publicly calling for mandatory ‘safe storage’ laws.” Huge kudos for his efforts, and I’m glad that we know she appears to be ready to vote with us! To all of you who doubted in the comments based off nothing other than the press release or things you haven’t confirmed on your own, please let this be a reminder that getting involved is absolutely key to making a real difference on the issue.

21 thoughts on ““Good” Gun Safety or “Bad” Gun Safety?”

  1. At least one PAFOA user in her district has attempted numerous times to get her and her staffers to take a position on HB40 and related topics, and so far he’s been stonewalled.

  2. Unlike most of the lawmakers & their staff who have been dealing with this bill for years, I’ll give her room to not give a solid answer for the moment. It’s reasonable to want to catch up on issues first, especially if it’s an issue that hasn’t been high on your priority list in your previous work. Not everyone is a gun nut, so I forgive that.

    Clayton, I’m with you on recognizing when they do good work. I just didn’t want someone who attended to come in and announce that in addition to handing out locks, she came out and called for more gun control. :) Her Democratic predecessor had a good record on our rights, so I hope that she holds true to his legacy. If she does, then I’ll be the first out of the gates to promote her in the community. After all, from what I saw of previous GOP candidates, they were far more anti-gun than the Democrat who held the seat was in the years before he passed.

  3. You can make the Congrats a leading question, so to speak.

    “Thank you for talking about real safety measures like recommending law-abiding gun owners secure their guns when not in use rather than unworkable, intrusive and unConstitutional measures like mandatory storage requirements and “lost and stolen” regulations.”

    Give them a carrot with the rules for the stick already attached. They can then agree with you or take the only other pre-framed position, that they are for unCon and uselessly intrusive regulations on the law abiding.

    You deny them a third option or a weaselly out.

  4. Gun safety? Sure. Keeping guns locked up where kids can’t get them? Who doesn’t support that?

    The problem is, when a legislator gives this much focus to an issue it makes people think it’s a huge problem. Fact is, it isn’t: according to a neat little database tool the CDC offers, in 2007 (last year they have data for) there were 138 accidental shootings of 0-19 year-olds that resulted in death. (This includes hunting accidents.) Here’s the tool: http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate10_sy.html

    That’s 138 out of roughly 80 million in the 0-19 y.o. demographic.

    Now apply the same tool to accidental drownings for 0-19 year-olds in 2007 and you get 1,056–roughly 7 1/2 times greater! So, we can commend Schwank for raising awareness of gun safety–safer gun handling only helps the pro-gun cause in the long run–but I hope she’s equally active in raising awareness about life jackets and swimming pool safety gates. Because if she’s not, then her “gun safety” promotion smacks of another agenda entirely.

  5. Matthew, we’re not near her district, so there’s not much we can really do. I hope that by posting straight facts here, I have given her the benefit of the doubt. I know Pennsylvania has a lot of Democrats who didn’t agree with or support Onorato’s version of “gun locks” policy. We certainly recognized her predecessor’s record on the issue. I hope she stands with us for our civil rights, and I’m not going to assume that she had another motive unless there’s strong evidence of it.

    Sage, I think that’s being a little quick to judge on the issue. In the release, she cited school letting out as a reason she thought it was relevant. More children will be home and many without parental supervision. It’s a reasonable response. While we deal with this issue differently as a childless couple with pretty much only visitors who know how to use firearms, a lot of home do have this concern. We made sure my mom picked up a lock with her gun because she has grandkids who visit. She just took office in April, so give her time to address the many issues that her constituents may be facing.

    Seriously, it’s free gun locks. If the event didn’t come with a side of anti-gun policy – which, by all appearances, it did not – then we should say it’s a great thing! She’s giving them out to constituents in her district office, and she pointed to other sources for free locks in the community. They are handy and free, and that’s a good thing.

  6. “That’s 138 out of roughly 80 million in the 0-19 y.o. demographic.”

    It’s always worthwhile to remind people of how incredibly rare these gun accidents are, because it calls into question the accuracy of much of what they know on the subject. Most people greatly overestimate the number accidental gun deaths, and greatly underestimate the suicide gun deaths. Still, just about every accidental gun death is preventable, and without any great effort–just by some education. When it happens to a kid, anyone that knows the kid or the family is going to have a really bad taste left by it.

    Educational efforts aimed at getting gun owners to responsibly store their weapons are not only good PR, but also just good. A gun that is readily accessible to a kid who does not know how to handle a gun is also readily accessible to a burglar.

  7. Bitter & Clayton – good points all around. Part of the reason accidental gun deaths & hunting “accidents” are down from the past is because of increased awareness and growing maturity in the gun-owning community. For instance, there are plenty of idiots who still start drinking before they’re done hunting for the day, but they don’t brag about it any more (at least not at the range.)

    That said, I’ve been burned enough by state legislators on gun issues to have to wonder hard about anybody who’s first apparent foray into gun politics focuses on “gun safety” without evidence of understanding the broader context. My gut is that you’ve got a novice who probably doesn’t have a lot of knowledge on gun issues either way & it would be a great benefit for you to be among the first to help educate her on the issue–we know the other side will show up in her office eventually, if they haven’t already.

  8. The CDC database is useful but it only tells you the number of kids who were killed. What it doesn’t tell you is the number of kids who were the killers. How many adults are killed by kids who accidentally found loaded guns?

  9. Jujube – You’re correct; the database doesn’t have that level of granularity to it. But the total number of accidental deaths from gunshot in 2007 was just over 600, or about 2 per million nationwide. So the approximate risk is the same for all age groups.

    And yes, I agree that people with kids in the house should lock up their guns. As should everyone when they aren’t home–gun thefts are running about 500,000 a year in the USA, making burglary a primary gun source for criminals. The guns don’t protect your home when you aren’t there to use them!

  10. You’ve got information on Sen. Schwank’s record and/or you have more specific information on the event, Jacob? Please, enlighten us here in Pennsylvania so we know more about it.

  11. Read exactly what she says: keep the guns locked and unloaded. That is mandatory storage. There is no mention of keeping guns for self defense nor is there any mention of educating children that guns are not toys. If she was interested in safety why was there no mention of that?

  12. Have to disagree with you Jacob. Look at the actual text and the order of events given.

    “Schwank added that when storing a firearm, owners should always:

    •Make sure the gun is not loaded;
    •Clean the gun properly;
    •Use a trigger lock; and
    •Store guns in a secure place away from children.”

    “Storing”, as in “putting away”.

    The “cleaning properly” part sure doesn’t sound like part of “mandatory storage at all times” to me.

    It sounds more like;

    “When you put the gun away, maintain it and lock it up away from the kids. Don’t just put it on the shelf.”

    Which is sound advice.

    We have actual enemies, maybe we should give an unknown a little benefit of the doubt before lumping them in that camp. “Sufficient to the day… and all that.”

  13. Bitter:

    “Unlike most of the lawmakers & their staff who have been dealing with this bill for years”

    Except she retained O’Pake’s entire staff. So they are well seasoned in the language, bill, and what it means. Her inability to take a position is what scares me. Don’t be fooled by Judy, she has high hopes. She’s a Kristen Gillibrand all over again. The party is working on her by dangling that carrot in front of her.

  14. I’ll try and help here a bit about Judy. I worked with her for 2 years while she was a county commissioner. Judy was a great person, said hello to everyone and ate lunch in the lunch room with the other employees.

    Her lack of a stance on this issue is what scares me. I never knew her to be someone who was at a loss for words, or avoided taking a position on issues. What she’s doing now is very uncharacteristic of her. Judy is highly educated and does not make decisions based on emotion. Right now she is doing her research. So it’s time to call her office and let her know where you stand. Invite her to you club trap shoot, steel shoot, or IPDA event. She’ll show up, not some aide. She needs to see the shooting sports in a positive light. It’s up to those in her district to do that. Most of her district is very pro2a. Make it known.

  15. Markie Marxist sez: “We sucker private gun owners in with bland talk of ‘gun safety’, and then take away their guns and send them to the gulag for violating mandatory storage laws! Ha! Ha! Suckers! Not to worry though, former private gun owners will be quite safe in our prison system – the rape and murder rate behind bars isn’t really as bad as some people make it out to be. Ha! Ha!”

  16. Chas, your “Markie Marxist” comments are equivalent to Godwin’s Law. Seriously.

  17. “•Use a trigger lock;”

    Trigger locks are inherently unsafe, and for someone to recommend their use is a clear indication that their primary motivation is politics, not safety.

  18. I was at this event, and spoke with the Senator afterwards. For disclosure let me state that I volunteered with Medaglia’s campaign against her.

    She supports HB40, and we should see her vote on that this week. She also thinks that current law is “sufficient” when it comes to storage of firearms. So at this time at least she is not publicly calling for mandatory “safe storage” laws.

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