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Thursday, January 26, 2012

When Guns Are Found Near School

Sometimes I think we shouldn't write posts when we're emotional.

Other times, writing it out might be a helpful way to deal with something.

Something like guns being found outside your kid's school.

As a mom, after finding out bits and pieces about guns being found at crosswalks and in the street, I did my best to remain calm, putting my trust in the fact that if there were a problem I'd hear from the school...and, of course, doubted that trust more and more every minute I didn't hear anything. I reminded myself that I'd certainly learn details later, and everything would be clear.

The details have come out, and I'm angry.

A man had forgotten that he left his guns on top of his car. When he drove away (and past the school), the guns fell off and onto the street.

I won't even tell you the potential scenarios that raced through my head this afternoon and evening (I can't -- it's too much). What I didn't imagine was that a guy left his guns on top of his car. You know, like you do with a cup of Coke, or the box of leftovers from the restaurant.

So, why so angry?

Don't I know that people have a right in this country to own a gun? Don't I realize that the gun owner did the right thing by contacting the police to let them know that his guns were missing? Can't I understand that we all make mistakes? Don't I realize that the guns weren't loaded, and so the situation could have been a lot worse, but it wasn't? And Talk To Your Kids About Gun Safety?

Uh, yeah.

But here's the thing: if you go through all the work to legally own a gun, and then you're careless with that gun, you should be punished for being careless with that gun. BECAUSE IT'S A GUN.

That this situation turned out to be a how-to on What To Do If You Find A Gun Near School doesn't make it okay that it happened. Why? Because of the What-Ifs. What if the mom who saw the gun assumed it was a toy and drove on by? What if the 8-year-old boy who found and picked up the OTHER gun decided to just hold on to it, maybe to show to his friends or take home? What if someone else (a teenager? Another adult?) who does not hold a gun permit found either of the guns and kept it? And, of course, we can't forget: What if the gun owner had not, in fact, emptied the gun(s) of their ammunition?

What-Ifs? Yes. Because guess what. Accidents happen, and you know it and I know it, and I'm too tired to look up examples and link to them, but they happen, and we both know it.

When my daughter got home, she called me. "Hi, Mom! Guess what happened at school today!"


"How did you know?"

"I saw some things about it on my phone."

"Well, we had to go into lockdown, the whole school did."

"What does 'lockdown' mean?"

"We all just went into our teacher's small office -- our whole class was in there. We had to be very still and totally quiet while the police searched the school for another gun or a shooter."

And THAT is when I lost it. The idea of my daughter, crowded into her teacher's office along with the rest of her classmates, being 'very still and totally quiet' while POLICE searched her SCHOOL for ANOTHER GUN or a SHOOTER.

This is not about being political. This is about a mom who wants her kids to NOT be around guns. Simple.


cabesh said...

Our elementary school is literally yards away from the middle school. Because of this our kids regularly (like once a month, same as fire drill) practice lockdown--but they give it a cute name and tell the kids it's what to do in an emergency. I'm pretty sure my kids have never dreamed up guns at school, so they're thinking a blizzard or flood.

I'm glad that the gun scenario isn't within their imagination. But, I'm also glad that they practice "lock down" because, unfortunately, these things do happen and I'd rather my kids were prepared. I honestly think if it happened for real they'd think it was just another drill.

wendysue said...

"But here's the thing: if you go through all the work to legally own a gun, and then you're careless with that gun, you should be punished for being careless with that gun. BECAUSE IT'S A GUN."

Amen. End of story. I don't know how people are NOT livid about this.

QueenScarlett said...

*Applause* EXACTLY. I just don't care to understand people who don't get this. Well said.

April said...

I was annoyed at the comment on your Facebook status that, hey, it's a good time to talk to your kids about gun safety! Um, maybe it's a good time to tell gun owners to be less careless with a dangerous weapon.

If this happened at either of my nieces' schools, I'd also be livid. I think you should also write a letter to the editor of your local newspapers. That's what I'd be doing.

Unknown said...

I couldn't agree with you more. As I watched this unfold on FB and saw all the people that basically said "Well, that man didn't do anything wrong! Accidents happen!" I wanted to jump through the computer screen. I am not saying that man should be sent to prison or hanged in the town square, but how is there not a legal punishment for being careless with a firearm? Like a HUGE fine? Or having your gun license revoked? Or letting every parent with kids in that school kick you in the balls? All of these seem like perfectly acceptable punishments too me. If we choose to live in a society with guns there should be strict laws and punishments governing the use and misue of those guns

Semi Granola Mom said...

I was one of the ones on fb who can't understand what people want him to be more punished for and still stand by that stance.

He made a stupid mistake, so how can you fine him for that? I totally understand if it has been armed a reckless endangerment charge or something along those lines, but they were unarmed. Honestly, if I were the parents of the kid who found it I would be more mad at my kid for picking it up than the guy who accidentally left it on the roof of his car and drove off because at that point we did not know it was unarmed.

Personally, I would also def be mad about the school lockdown. The guns were not found on school grounds, there was not a link to their presence and the school so to scare all the kids I find to be a bit extreme.

Like I said on fb, I am one who has made mistakes and am forgetful, so I can see leaving something on your car. I have done it sadly more times than I care to admit, granted I blame mommy brain for that. So I can't cast stones at a person for making a mistake, I too am human and make mistakes as well. The guy made a stupid mistake there is no denying that, but it was not a lethal mistake, it could have been but it wasn't and I am pretty sure we don't charge people for what might have happened over what did. And that is not to be read as some one needed to be hurt before being charged, not at all, if the possibility of someone being hurt had been present then he should be charged but he was at least responsible enough to make sure that possibility was not present and so I don't think there should be a witch hunt for his head.

People are allowed to be mad though, sorry if it sounded like I was trying to take that away from people, you are allowed to feel emotion about it, I would be mad too that an idiot dropped his guns, I would be mad that some kid picked it up, I would be mad that the school handled it in a lock down situation when it didn't seem necessary, anger it an acceptable reaction, so I am sorry if it came across that I was taking that away from people.


La Yen said...

1. We DO punish people for "what could have been" see: attempted murder, conspiracy to commit, etc. The fact that the intent was not there does not make the man blameless.

2. The fact that the person removed the bullets before he put the guns ON TOP OF HIS CAR does not make him a responsible gun owner. Unless the top of his car was a gun safe. Then this is a moo point.

3. I would argue that the school did the right thing by locking down the campus--but should have notified the parents IMMEDIATELY. In today's climate of school violence (and in a neighborhood which clearly leans toward allowing morons to have immediate and unfettered access to weapons) administrators must always err on the side of caution.

**And I say these things LIVING IN TEXAS. We seceded from the US, y'all. We know our crazy, we know our guns--WE ELECTED RICK PERRY. (Because our other option was Kinky Friedman.)

~j. said...

I’ve had a couple of days to organize my thoughts on this, so I’ll say this in the comments section of my blog, as well as in the discussion on my facebook wall.

First, I’m glad that people feel safe (for lack of a better word) voicing opinions which differ from my own (or even the majority of those who speak up) in any webspace which is affiliated with my name. Often I see things online, things with which I disagree, but don’t say anything because of the probability that the discussion will turn to personally insulting remarks, which, in my opinion, destroy the validity of the discussion. I hardly ever initiate such sensitive discussion for that reason. So, thank you to all who have commented, clicked ‘like,’ tweeted, participated in the discussion; to do so when you disagree takes a measure of courage. (continued…)

~j. said...

To go along with this, I’ve considered that perhaps I even know the gun owner. After all, if his car route takes him past the neighborhood school, it’s likely he lives close to the school (as do I). The things I say about this situation, and the way I say them, have made me consider: would I say this to the gun owner if the conversation should come up? My answer has to be yes, otherwise, why would I put it online with my name attached?

And now, for the criticisms, here is my response: (continued...)

~j. said...

The problem in this situation comes down to this: guns were found in locations where they were easily accessible to children; specifically, children who were not related to the owner of the guns. Did the owner place them there intentionally? Of course not. It was a mistake, to be certain. I’d wager that the gun owner feels horrible about what happened, probably less because his guns went missing and more because they were found near an elementary school, and one was picked up by a child. The fact that the guns were found near a school is very unfortunate, and, like I said, was not done intentionally. However, compassion for the person who made the mistake is separate from consequences for the action which led to the situation. Let me say that again: compassion (tolerance, understanding, sympathy, etc.) for the individual responsible is separate from the reality that consequences follow actions, whether those actions were mistakes or not. Should the child have picked up the gun? No. But more importantly, the gun should never have been in the path of the child. (continued…)

~j. said...

Should the gun owner be fined? I think that would be appropriate. Would his having to pay a fine deter others in similar situations in the future from doing the right thing and calling the police to report missing firearms? Maybe. I tend to think of this from a different angle: if a fine were in place, those who own guns may be more inclined to be more responsible the first time (and every time) to avoid the fine (I know that might sound like it’s not the best way to prioritize, thinking-wise; safety should be more important than money, but people don’t want to spend their money on fines, and the possibility of a fine may be the extra thing to encourage someone to always remember to lock up their guns). I think an ideal situation would be that upon purchasing a gun (I admit I’m not familiar with the process) you sign something saying you understand that if your guns are missing, you are to report that situation to the police immediately; if you do, your fine will be less than if, say, your guns are found by someone else and it turns out you purposefully did not report the guns missing to avoid the fine. (continued…)

~j. said...

As for the issue of the guns being empty (of ammunition), I agree, thank goodness they were empty. But just for a minute, consider the instances you know (first-hand, second-hand, from the news, etc.) where someone was injured (or paralyzed, or killed) from an accidental gunshot. Did the owner say that they knew ammunition was in the gun? Almost always, no. Almost always, the owner says, “I was positive the gun was empty,” or, “I emptied the gun the last time I used it, I’m sure of it,” or something along those lines. Even those who are careful with the care of their guns make mistakes, even unknowingly. This gun owner was as positive that he had emptied his guns as every other gun owner who has emptied their guns.

This is the nature of guns. As Erica so aptly said on my facebook wall, “There is NO room for forgetfulness or carelessness in gun ownership.” @AndySherwin tweeted, “…nothing makes responsible gun owners more angry than this.” I’d agree with that (not unlike when Warren Jeffs is reported in the news to be Mormon). When you become the owner of a gun, you need to be held to a higher standard of safety and responsibility.

Even those who are most careful are victims to mistakes, from forgetting guns on top of cars to the accidental ending of a life. So, in the arena of gun ownership, where do we draw the line? Guns are dangerous. Period. And if a gun owner is forgetful regarding their gun, even mistakenly, some sort of fine (or other punishment) should be issued. (continued…)

~j. said...

As for getting worked up over the What Ifs . . . that’s how many laws are made: those in authority say, “What if…” and (eventually) a law is born. We all know that often it isn’t until tragedy strikes that laws, or any enforcements, are put into place; the What Ifs are looked at to prevent situations from reaching that level of tragedy. Also, as La Yen commented on my blog, “We DO punish people for ‘what could have been’( see: attempted murder, conspiracy to commit, etc.) The fact that the intent was not there does not make the man blameless.”

I think the school acted appropriately, and I support what they did. I would have preferred to have gotten a phone call, even a recorded, to-the-masses phone call, to have learned about what was going on at the time. The lockdown lasted about 15 minutes, and the students were all sent home with a letter from the principal. I’m not mad about the lockdown situation; I’m sad that my daughter experienced it. I was scared for her.

Semi Granola Mom said...

a few response sorry don't have time to respond to all the points, will be back later to do so :)

"1. We DO punish people for "what could have been" see: attempted murder, conspiracy to commit, etc. The fact that the intent was not there does not make the man blameless."

so comparing dropping ones empty gun to attempted murder, seems a little apples to watermelons. Those examples have intent behind them, all premeditated crimes. Forgetting ones gun is an accident, a mistake, pretty sure he didn't make a plan to leave his gun on his car and drive around. just sayin.

"2. The fact that the person removed the bullets before he put the guns ON TOP OF HIS CAR does not make him a responsible gun owner. Unless the top of his car was a gun safe. Then this is a moo point. "

Really? You are going to take that away from the guy, that he was not responsible to at least some degree in having removed the bullets when not using his gun. That should be the actual definition of a responsible gun owner, one who keeps the weapon and it's ammunition in separate places. I am not the most familiar with utah gun laws, but in cali, you have a concealed permit which means you are allowed to carry the gun around. It does not have to be kept in a safe at all times, kind of defeats the purpose of owning the weapon if not to have it available to use.

ps, there are 3 different cops who live in that area, I know who my money is on in regards to which it probably was who left his and probably his wife's gun on their car :)


Carina said...

Ah. So that's why he's not being charged or fined? He's a cop?


Tori said...

I totally see your points and why you're upset. I agree the school should have called you, etc...

I also totally see being upset that the gun owner left his guns on top of his car. It seems like such an irresponsible thing to do, like something we'd all say we would never do and can't believe someone did! Kind of like when that mom with a bunch of kids left one of them at McDonalds. How the hell do you leave your own kid? Oh wait, that was me... I swore I would never be one of "those moms" that did something so stupid. Yet, here I am. Something could have happened to my 8 year old in those 5 minutes it took me to realize he wasn't in the back of the van. Nothing did and all was well. But should I have been punished?

Should the gun owner be fined? Ok, if there's a law that says he should. You can't make up a law and have him pay because it happened now. I think there should be something in place, but I'm guessing there isn't. Also the fact that the guns WERE unloaded IS a huge factor. If the guns had been loaded, I am pretty positive he would be facing charges. But they weren't. He WAS responsible in making sure he had not only emptied the magazine, but also the chamber. It's the bullet in the chamber that usually causes accidently shootings. You MUST check the chamber and I am thankful this man did.

I guess I agree mostly with "The Lewis Family."

On another note, you know my husband is a police officer and we have taught our kids from the beginning you never, ever touch a gun. In fact, Sei did career day the other day for kindergarteners and took 1/2 his time to teaching them "See a gun...RUN!" So, the fact that the 8 year old actually picked it up makes me sick to my stomach. I wonder if his parents had ever talked to him because you never know when your kid may be around a gun. We have several in our home and I have a CHL- I carry all the time. So of course we've discussed it with our kids, but we had discussed it with them over years and years because friend's homes have guns. Relatives have guns. And sometimes, apparently, people leave guns on top of their cars... (Honestly this isn't the 1st time this has happened. I can name 2 other incidents, NOT involving my husband, that I know of where guns were left on top of a car.)

I'm just thankful everyone is ok. I hope the school and the parents discussed gun safety with their kids as well. That's a scary situation.

@Azucar- If there's nothing to charge him with it doesn't matter if he is or isn't a cop.