By Joseph Marcades
According to The Trace, an independent nonprofit news outlet dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States, mass shootings account for less than 2 percent of annual gun deaths in the country.
Unsecured firearms and unsafe gun practices in the home lead to far greater risks than mass shootings. Toddlers alone were responsible for shooting one person a week on average in 2015, according to The Trace.
Lubbock 911 dispatcher James Quijada said that before he took this job, he would have supported people keeping a firearm at home for protection. However, he has gained a new perspective on the issue.
“Now, working in law enforcement, I think that there should only be certain people that own guns,” Quijada said. “I’ve taken too many calls and dispatched too many calls where kids have died because of them.”
Quijada said he believes the majority of gun owners in Texas and other pro-gun state do not practice the full extent of gun safety needed in one’s home.
Steven Caudillo, a Lubbock County sheriff’s deputy, said a lot of accidents happen because of gun owners’ inexperience and negligence.
“Really, in all honesty, gun safety, there is not enough of it,” Caudillo said.
Quijada said there are life-and-death consequences of failing to follow precautions. For example, he recalled a case in which a gun owner was cleaning his weapon, which fired as he was putting it back together. A stray bullet, which had been left in the chamber, killed a young child in the next room.
“It’s just sad because it is just the basic things, like making sure there is not a bullet in the chamber,” Quijada said.
Adolescents of all ages are especially susceptible to lapses in gun safety.
Steve Corley, a retired teacher and a longtime Lubbock citizen, said he lost his teenage stepson, Zach, to a firearm discharge in the home years ago.
Corley said his first exposure to guns was as a child on his grandfather’s farm, where he remembers an early hunting trip. He said he shot a baby armadillo, and upon seeing it in the bushes, he cried.
Corley has been looking into getting a license to carry a handgun, but is hesitant because of what happened to Zach.
At the time of Zach’s incident, Corley said he kept a pistol in his desk for home protection. He said Zach found the pistol while Corley and his wife were out of town on a youth church retreat.
“He had some friends at the house and had it in bed with him,” Corley said. “I don’t think he intended to commit suicide, but he pulled the trigger.”
Corley said 18-year-old Zach was killed almost immediately as the bullet entered his abdomen and punctured his lung. He said his wife is completely against guns in the home, but even after their experience, he feels guns serve the purpose of protection.
“I’m very much pro-Second Amendment,” Corley said. “I’m very much pro-protecting my family.”
Corley said the gun was not discussed with the kids, and he was not sure whether they knew about it. He said he bought it from a friend and did not think too much about it.
Vicki Hanak, a license-to-carry instructor from Branham, Texas, who has a husband in law enforcement and three young sons, said gun safety is imperative in everyday life.
Hanak emphasizes her family’s situation is unique because loaded firearms are easily accessible in their home, a law enforcement household.
“We have no choice but to make sure the boys know how to be safe around them because they are around and will always be around,” Hanak said.
Regardless of what kind of household you have, Hanak said informing and educating children about firearms is the first step in keeping them safe.
No matter what side of the issue someone is on, Hanak explained how important gun education can be for any child.
“Your kids are still going to learn about firearms from somebody,” Hanak said. “Don’t let it be TV. Don’t let it be video games.”
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, there are now over 1 million license-to-carry holders in the state of Texas. There has been an 8-percent increase in requests to obtain a license in the past year.
With so many gun toters out there, Hanak reiterates the importance of finding a trustworthy person—a family member or a professional—to educate your children about guns.
“In our house, it is an absolute necessity,” Hanak said. “In any home, it is a necessity.”