Of Potties and Trigger Locks

Yesterday when I went to pick my 20-month-old son, Leo, up from daycare, he grabbed my index finger with his hand and dragged me to the bathroom to show me the plastic potty. He lifted the lid, stuck his hand inside, rubbed it around-yes, fortunately, it was empty-and said, in that faltering, I-just-learned-how-to-say-it voice, “Poop!” He shut the lid and opened it again, stuck his hand in and said “Pee!” We spent a good five minutes in the bathroom with him continuing to explicate the properties of the potty.

What do potties have to do with trigger locks for handguns? Well, this: 20-month-olds, as anybody who has spent time around these creatures well knows, are intrepidly curious. Any object that is within reach is fair game for prodding, hitting, stroking, throwing, eating, and licking. So it follows that if there is a gun nearby, that kid will grab it and start experimenting.

Some 90% of fatal firearm accidents involving kids occur at home. Twice as many deaths from firearms among children under 18 years of age occur in states with the highest proportion of people living in houses with loaded guns. Here in Colorado, one-third of households have a firearm. Nearly seven percent have a loaded firearm; 4.2% have a loaded and unlocked firearm. And the kicker: an estimated 17,820 Coloradan children live in households with unlocked firearms. These statistics come from the September 2005 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics.

Trigger locks come in all shapes and sizes, but the basic idea is to keep guns away from kids to help prevent these sorts of accidents. In California, the law requires that that all firearms sold must be accompanied by a trigger lock device approved by the state Department of Justice. Federal law requires that gun dealers provide trigger locks when selling handguns, but Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-4) sponsored a successful amendment to defund the program. Today a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee is taking up the bill. We’re watching.