When we talk about gun safety in Montana, the conversation must include responsible storage of firearms. Unfortunately, the National Rifle Association and like-minded local organizations sponsor gun safety programs that don’t include this, opting to hold children responsible for not accessing guns, instead of putting the onus where it belongs — on adults.
Sadly, I know firsthand this doesn’t work. Despite learning the NRA’s brand of gun safety, my cousin’s 9-year-old was shot and killed in Belgrade after he and another boy found a loaded, unsecured handgun.
If you, like me, keep a firearm in your home, you are responsible for ensuring children can’t access it by storing it locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition. Or, at the very least, in a locked gun safe only you can access. This can also prevent teens with temporary thoughts of suicide from completing a permanent act.
Parents should also ask about firearms and how they’re stored before their kids visit other homes. Though it may feel awkward, it could save your child’s life.
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You can learn more about responsible storage at besmartforkids.org. Missoula has several BeSMART-certified instructors who teach classes throughout the year and are happy to present to groups throughout western Montana.