Self Defense & Guns are always a hot legal topic, and today is no different. The recent tragic accidental self-inflicted shooting death of a 9 year-old Detroit boy has prompted the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office to charge the boy's father with a laundry list of offenses including murder, which could land him in prison for life. Based on information from public media reports, if the father had followed the law, the firearm would not have been in the house. First, the shotgun involved has been described as being "sawed-off". In Michigan, shotguns are required to have at least an 18 inch barrel. Anything shorter than that is considered "sawed-off". Secondly, media reports state that the father is a felon. Felons are not permitted to possess firearms under federal and state law in Michigan.
This tragic case has far reaching implications for lawful gun owners. Particularly troubling is the fact that the Wayne County Prosecutor has charged the father with Murder! Does anyone think the father wanted his child to die in an accidental shooting? Is exposing a man to life in prison appropriate for an accident?
Regardless of your answers to these questions, this case should raise critical question in the gun community. How do you store your firearms? How do you balance the need for an accessible firearm to defend yourself and your loved ones with the need to keep guns out of the hands of presumably uneducated children?
I grew up around firearms. My father, who was a WWII infantry veteran, unequivocally believed that an unloaded gun, or a locked up gun, were useless in a self-defense setting. An unloaded gun's usefulness is limited to how far you can throw it at your attacker. Under the stress of a critical incident, the chances of loading or accessing a locked firearm is slim to none. Thus, my father's approach was to educate me on the proper handling and use of a firearm. A firearm is a tool, which if used correctly serves a legitimate purpose. Therefore, as with any potentially dangerous tool, educating the potential operator is essential.
Depending on the age of the children in the household, education may not be enough. Therefore, it is incumbent upon gun owners to properly store firearms so they are inaccessible to young or uneducated children. People may debate what constitutes proper storage. Does it mean being locked up, or merely inaccessible from young uneducated hands? This is a question that every gun owner needs to consider and answer for themselves. Gun owners should think about how they store other potentially dangerous items in their homes, keeping them away from young children, grand-children, and their friends.
Vigilance on this issue is key when it comes to self defense & guns, and there is no room for error. Error can result in tragedy. Not only because of the death of an innocent child, but also from the over-zealous approach of a prosecutor that wants to put the gun owner in prison for what amount to the rest of their life.
The NRA has excellent educational materials for children. Undoubtedly, there are other sources for quality materials too. Also, if you have legal questions or concerns in Michigan about self-defense & guns, firearms, self-defense training, and gun rights, contact an experienced Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb county criminal defense attorney that understands firearms and self-defense law.