Just Say No To Gun Ignorance

I live in Michigan. I live on the shores of Lake Michigan in an area with a lot of inland lakes. Every year, we experience some drownings in our area. But this year in particular, we’ve had quite a few drownings. At the beginning of the summer, a local high school student drowned in shallow water in one of the inland lakes. As you might expect, the tragedy rocked our small town. According to his friends and family, he was not a strong swimmer.

After the drowning, our local press and politicians repeatedly called for better water safety and swimming education in our town. This is not a new initiative; we are currently building a YMCA facility with a swimming pool for just that reason. In response to the community outcry, several organizations have donated money for swim lesson scholarships at the new Y. As a community, we realized that our swimming education opportunities were lacking. We were not giving our children the tools they needed to be safe in the water.

Through this recent tragedy and in all of the other drownings in our area, no one has ever suggested that we ban water sports or close down the Great Lakes. We haven’t formed community action groups to create swim free zones. Instead, we’ve done the responsible thing. We’ve invested time, money and energy into equipping our children to safely handle the water. And, why not? Water sports can be great fun, swimming is great exercise, and our abundance of water in Michigan is one of the things that makes our state great.

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What baffles me, what I struggle to fully comprehend is why, as a community, our response to accidental gun deaths is so different from our response to accidental drownings. We seem to agree that as a nation, we have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us. When drowning is the threat, we equip children with the tools to be safe and protect themselves—even children who don’t have pools or live on lakes. As a community, we believe it is our responsibility to make sure all children learn to swim.

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On the other hand, when gun accidents are the threat, we call for gun free zones and we teach our children to fear guns rather than handle them safely.

What disturbs me even more is that swimming isn’t a constitutionally protected right. Communities everywhere work to protect children’s access to recreation, but don’t work equally hard to protect our citizens’ right to bear arms?

You may think this analogy is simplistic. I assure you it’s not. We hear all the time that we have a gun problem, that guns threaten our children’s safety. That we have to agree to limitations on our rights in order to protect our children. According to the most recent CDC stats, in 2010, 62 children under the age of 15 died in accidental gun deaths. In that same year, 726 children under the age of 15 died in accidental drownings. 726 children accidentally drown and our communities call for better education; 1/12th of that number die in accidental gun deaths and our communities call for restrictions, limitations and outright bans. Where is the disconnect?

All children deserve to be protected. All children should be given every possible tool to live a happy, healthy life. This is true when it comes to pools and lakes, and it’s equally true when it comes to firearms.

*NRA commentary provided by Billy Johnson

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