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Best way to control guns? Lock them up

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Lock up your guns.

That is the most effective gun control measure, and holds more promise for actually reducing mass shootings at schools than any other idea on the table.

After last week’s school shooting in Santa Fe, the conversation turned to Texas’ lax gun regulation. But not one of the additional gun control laws advocates seek -- short of an all-out firearms confiscation and ban – would have stopped the 10 murders carried out by a 17-year-old student apparently smarting over a romantic rebuff.

Dimitrios Pagourtzis carried two guns when he walked into the art room of Santa Fe High School and began slaughtering his peers, a shotgun and a .38 caliber revolver. These are among the most common firearms owned by Americans and are not the targets, so far, of gun limits. They aren’t  military style assault weapons, they don’t have high capacity magazines, they aren’t semi-automatic. And they weren’t purchased by a minor.

They belonged to his father, and he apparently took them without permission.

That couldn’t have happened had the father done what every gun owner should do: keep firearms secure and away from those who would use them to do harm.

Had the Pagourtzis family guns been under lock and key, with access limited to the owner, the teen-aged son would not have been able  to take them to school to carry out his massacre.

Nor could have 20-year-old Adam Lanza mowed down 20 children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., without free access to his family’s considerable arsenal, which he used to carry out the attack.

A young woman cries by a memorial for Santa Fe High School freshman Aaron Kyle McLeod who was killed Friday during a shooting at the school, in Santa Fe, Texas.

Most often in school shootings, the guns are not purchased by the shooter, but taken from a parent’s closet or stolen or bought on the black market.

Unsecured firearms are also the culprit in the majority of accidental shootings. Last month in Detroit, a 4-year-old girl shot herself in the stomach after finding her father’s loaded gun in their home.

“It’s about people control,” says Detroit Police Chief James Craig. “You have to be responsible. Being a gun owner comes with a great deal of responsibility.”

With the sharp increase in concealed carry permits, the chief is seeing a lot of handguns stolen from cars, where they were left by their owners who go into places where firearms aren’t welcome.

“If you’re going to a location that doesn’t allow you to carry a concealed weapon, don’t bring it with you. Leave it at home,” he says. “People are watching. At the ballpark, they’re watching folks walk back to their cars to store the gun, and then they break in.”

Securing a gun is not a heavy burden. Gun safes come in all sizes and aren’t prohibitively expensive. For those who feel the need for a gun in their nightstand, small vaults are available that quickly open via the owner’s fingerprints.

Almost every new gun sold today comes with a trigger lock from the manufacturer. And if not, they can be purchased for under 10 bucks. Buy them and use them.

There are even some pretty good gun safes that can be secured to the frame of a vehicle.

A lock is only as good as the key. And that key should be held only by the gun owners. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your kid would never misuse a firearm. Dimitrios Pagourtzis looked like a cherub and was performing with an ethnic dance troupe the day before the shooting. His dad likely never suspected his son would take his guns to school and end 10 lives.

Let the gun control debate rage on. Maybe someone will hit on the magic measure that will end gun violence in this country.

In the meantime, those of us who are legal, responsible gun owners have an obligation to keep our firearms from being used illegally and irresponsibly.

Catch The Nolan Finley Show weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.