GAO Report Finds Free Gun Locks Work, Meddlesome Doctors Don't

Photo by Anselm Hook, published under creative commons

As a parent, my wife and I have had to talk a time or two about what we would do if the doctor started to ask about guns. My take was simply to inform the doctor that it’s none of his business and to take our business elsewhere. My wife’s was a bit more pragmatic: tell them there aren’t any, then soldier on.


However, a new report from the General Accounting Office–the investigative arm of Congress–found something interesting about doctors and their fairly new propensity for asking about gun ownership in the home, followed by a lecture about stuff you may already know. It doesn’t work nearly as well as just giving people gun locks.

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has confirmed what we know to be true. The distribution of free gun locks helps to increase the use of safe storage practices. Having doctors talk to parents about safe storage and firearms in the homes does not change the parents’ behavior. In the words of the GAO authors:

“Our review of the studies relating to safe storage approaches (device distribution and physician consultation) found that providing a free locking device to study participants influenced behavior to store firearms more safely and physician consultation generally did not.”

We know this of course, having seen through the undeniable success of NSSF’s Project ChildSafe® program as it has distributed 37 million free safety kits that include a firearm locking device to communities in all 50 states. And we are determined to see the downward trend in firearms-related accidents continue to decline.

12 Studies Analyzed

The government researchers analyzed the results of 12 different studies. Of these, about half (5) tested the impact of distributing locking devices (including cable locks, trigger locks or gun safes/cabinets). According to the GAO, the results are clear: “All five studies found that gun owners given a locking device began using the device to store their firearms more safely compared to a control group or based on surveys given before and after receiving the device.”


Interesting, don’t you think.

The truth is that most people lock their guns up, for security if nothing else. No one wants bad people to get their guns, and no one wants their kids to get hold of their guns and do something to hurt themselves or someone else. I grew up with the horror story from my mother about her losing a friend when his buddy accidentally shot him with an unattended handgun.

Gun owners know this and take precautions…if they can. Lectures from doctors don’t work nearly as well as providing the means to secure a firearm. It’s not hard to grasp.

However, that wasn’t the only tidbit out of the GAO report. They also noted that so-called “smart guns” aren’t even close to being ready for prime time.

As a side note, an entire appendix is dedicated to the quest for a functioning so-called “smart gun.” After describing the government research that has been committed to developing authorized-user technology for firearms, the GAO notes that a 2015 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) “Gun Safety Technology Challenge” failed. The authors write:

“The challenge, which consisted of a three-stage evaluation of the reliability and durability of smart gun technology, received 14 submissions from developers, according to NIJ officials. However, these officials told us that 12 of the 14 submissions were ineligible because they were concepts rather than functional products. Of the two remaining submissions, one applicant was determined to be ineligible, leaving only one other applicant. Due to the low response rate, NIJ terminated the challenge in 2016, prior to conducting any testing. NIJ officials stated that they do not have plans to provide additional funding for the development of smart gun technologies.”


Is anyone shocked by this?

Meanwhile, some states are already trying to push smart guns through as the be all, end all of firearm safety. They’re not. They will lead to more innocent people being dead if for no other reason than because the blasted things wouldn’t operate when needed. It’ll also take no more than a month before someone figures out how to hack them and render any controls obsolete.

Again, no surprises there.

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