Guest Editorial: Gun owners must be held responsible for failing to secure firearms
A 17-year-old boy cannot legally walk into a sporting goods store and buy a .38 revolver. Not even in gun-loving Texas.
Yet Dimitrios Pagourtzis was armed with a shotgun and revolver when he entered his Santa Fe high school last week and started shooting. His victims include a substitute teacher, a foreign exchange student and a football player.
The guns Pagourtzis used to kill and injure nearly two dozen people belonged to the shooter's father, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
That father should be held responsible by law enforcement and the courts.
Authorities should make an example of him to send a message to all gun owners about the importance of locking up firearms.
Too often, the weapons used in school shootings come from the perpetrator's home, where adults failed to properly secure them.
Adam Lanza's mother was a gun enthusiast before the 20-year-old used her guns to kill her, 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary school and himself.
The guns were acquired legally, registered, not adequately secured and used to massacre innocent children.
Then there are the so-called accidents that happen after young children have access to guns left in drawers, purses or glove boxes by adults. These children include Jayden Choate of Elgin, Iowa. In 2016, the 4-year-old picked up a gun in a neighbor's home, shot himself in the head and died.
Every single time a young person gets a gun and shoots himself or others, the firearm owner should be held responsible. Every single time.
Criminally charging these individuals and press conferences announcing charges may be the only way to get through to gun owners to secure firearms, regardless of whether they have children living in a home.
Trigger locks can be purchased for as little as $13 at Walmart. A search of the retailer's products online also returned dozens of gun safes for less than $100.
Yet nearly 2 million American children live in homes with guns that are not stored properly, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing violence. It reports there is an unintentional shooting involving a child in this country every 34 hours. There have been at least 70 such shootings so far in 2018.
While the U.S. Congress and state officials bear much responsibility in failing to do more to prevent gun violence, individual Americans, including parents and prosecutors, can do more.
There would be many fewer "accidents" involving small children and shootings by teens if gun-owning adults locked up their weapons.
Those who do not do so should be held criminally, and very publicly, accountable. That may be the only hope for saving children — and their classmates — from gun violence.
Des Moines Register, May 21