TN Doctors Weigh In On Firearm Storage (Kinda)

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The proper storage of firearms is important. The storage of firearms also happens to be a very personal topic. What’s good for one person or family, may not be good for another. That being said, the securing of firearms in a locked container of one sort or another, such as a safe, should keep the firearm from landing into the hands of children, and some-what safeguard them from theft. There’s no one-size-fits-all-solution to responsibly storing guns, let’s get that clear.

A recent opinion piece published in the Tennessean leaves mixed feelings on how the information within is presented. Perhaps a relevant sidebar is that the Tennessean, according to the privacy policy, is a Gannett/USA TODAY Network publication. In my opinion, Gannett is not traditionally friendly to Second Amendment rights, and a little of that bias peeks through in the piece. The article “Tennessee lawmakers should invest in safer gun storage education for citizens” has the following teaser excerpt:

Tennessee’s new permitless carry law that went into effect on July 1 carries hazards, especially for children and teens who may be tempted to misuse a firearm if it is not stored properly.

It did not take long for bias to start to show its little cute face, did it? Right off the bat, the physicians who penned the piece (or the editorial staff at the Tennessean) are  pairing the new permitless carry law with carrying “hazards”, in particular for “children and teens”.

The piece starts out by telling a tragic story of a negligent shooting accident involving a minor. Any loss of life is an awful situation. The exact particulars of the story are not completely conveyed, it just says the firearm was picked up out of curiosity. The incident occurred in spite of growing up in a household that practiced hunting. We just don’t have all the details.

The doctors continued to discuss the importance of their work, citing ethical reasons for getting involved in this dialog.

However, this tragedy could have been prevented. As pediatricians, we are asking our legislators to do more to support safer gun storage.

Physicians are trained not only to treat illnesses and trauma, but also to prevent disease and injuries before they occur.

Easy access to unsecured firearms combined with a child or teen’s curiosity wins out over caution, even when they are taught to not touch firearms.

This is where our opinions begin to diverge. “Easy access” is not an effect of permitless “carry.” On more than one occasion, doctors have tried to weigh in on the conversation. This is not to diminish one’s voice, but to point out that medicine is their wheelhouse, not firearms. And credit will be given where credit is due.  But, things get a bit political first:

Tennessee’s new permitless carry law will increase access to poorly secured firearms, which is associated with increases in homicide, suicide, and unintentional injury or death.

The law, which took effect July 1, allows for both open and concealed carrying of handguns for people 21 and older without a permit as well as for military members over 18. Most deaths and injuries related to firearms, both intentional and unintentional, occur as a result of handguns.

There’s no evidence, whatsoever, that permitless carry will lead to poorly secured firearms. Zero. If there were statistics to back this claim up, that’d be one thing, but there aren’t any. Pairing permitless carry with “homicide, suicide, and unintentional injury or death” is a political statement stigmatizing the new law. People are either responsible, or they’re not responsible. People are either law abiding, or they’re not law abiding. The presence or absence of a permit has nothing to do with respecting the law or being prudent. Pointing out that “Most deaths and injuries related to firearms…occur as a result of handguns…” is again pushing a narrative.

The advocacy here though, I can’t argue with. This is what they’re seeking:

It is the firearm owner’s responsibility, not the child’s, to take reasonable and measured steps to ensure their own safety and the safety of others.

The key to the successful prevention of firearm-associated injuries and deaths lies in adults operating within a framework that sets our children up for success.

This includes urging our legislators to fund responsible firearm safe storage education programs aimed at adults to reduce accessibility to those who are not the firearm owner.

Having state funded programs to educate about firearm safety is something I can get behind. What I can’t get behind though is bias. I also can’t get behind a one-size-fits-all approach to firearm storage. The doctors kind of tip-toe a little around that concept but not enough for my liking:

Such programs would stress that properly secured firearms are stored, locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition. But even if all these elements are not possible, ensuring that the firearm is at least locked can reduce harm.

This approach of storing firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition completely throws to the wind a person’s ability to have a firearm ready for its most cited intended purpose, self-defense. They “save” themselves a little by this mitigated statement: “But even if all these elements are not possible, ensuring that the firearm is at least locked can reduce harm.” That practice just dose not work for everyone.

When diving into this subject, sure, I’d love to see funding for firearm safety training. Would the doctors advocate for storage methods that diverge from their “professional” opinion? How about quick access boxes being discussed? Concealment furniture? Actually addressing that firearms that are unloaded are useless. I would like to know what class in medical school the doctors took that makes them an authority to say that’s how we’re supposed to store firearms. If you’re going to come to the table as an “expert” on a subject as a doctor, I want to see your credentials.

We can all appreciate a group of concerned doctors asking for funding for such a program. However, the curriculum of any such class should be written by and taught by professionals in the firearm industry. Advocate doctors that wish to pair things like permitless carry to something negative, because the practice is not to their taste, could gain a little respect from those in the Second Amendment community, if they try. When writing these pieces if they brought us to the table, we’d probably listen. Perhaps say: “We should get the perspective from the professionals.” Instead, this is what they do:

This is particularly imperative when we know permitless carry legislation removes essential safeguards to ensure that only responsible gun owners can carry concealed handguns in public.

Is this about gun storage or are the doctors worried about the removal of “essential safeguards to ensure that only responsible gun owners can carry concealed handguns in public”? What exactly are you getting at?

What do I say? Bring on the funding. Use it to have professional firearm instructors teach on the subject to those that wish to be educated. We can say thank you to the doctors for getting us the money, now be on your way. You have much bigger things to worry about. Such as something Dr. Robert B. Young, MD, the editor at  Doctors For Responsible Gun Ownership brought up to me for another piece:

…400,000 deaths (give or take 200,000) yearly due to health care provider mistakes, and countless more injuries. This is what the medical profession should be laser focused on, not the exercise of a fundamental right protected by the Second Amendment. ‘Hypocrite, first cast out that beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.’ (Matt 7:5)

I think this interview clip of Dr. John Edeen speaking on the subject, also from Doctors For Responsible Gun Ownership says it all: