Seen in today’s online edition of The Lantern:

POLAND, OHIO – Ohio State freshman Marissa Plakosh was shot and killed in her Youngstown-area home when she was on holiday break at about 5:50 a.m. Saturday, December 15.

The victim, her brother and a family friend were seated in the same room when the friend was handling a loaded firearm. It discharged once and struck her in the neck, according to Poland Township Police.

This kind of tragedy is exactly the kind of thing sensible gun regulation could help eradicate. Thankfully, accidental gun deaths are already quite low – about 1500 per year across the entire country. Additionally, the number of gun deaths has dropped dramatically in the last 10-15 years. Certainly, your odds of dying in a car crash or falling are higher than your odds of dying from an accidental firearms discharge; however, unlike a car, a firearm is a weapon, designed to kill. Accidental deaths involving firearms could nearly be eliminated with some common-sense regulation.

For example, requiring training in safe handling of a gun before allowing purchase. While we don’t have all the details of Ms. Plakosh’s death (what are college kids doing handling a loaded gun at 5:50 in the morning on a Saturday?), we can be reasonably confident that they been observing a few basic safety rules not only would that negligent discharge have been unlikely, even if it had happened Ms. Plakosh likely would have not been hit. Always treat a gun as if it were loaded (and unless intending/expecting to use it, keep it unloaded). Never point a gun at something you aren’t willing to put a hole in (including people!). And only have your finger on the trigger when you have the gun aimed at a target and are intending to shoot.

I’m currently taking a basic handgun safety course that meets (and exceeds) the requirements for Ohio’s concealed-carry licensing requirement. It is my opinion that successful completion of such a course should be required for firearms ownership (in addition to background checks for felonious behavior and mental illness), and that such a requirement would result in better safety awareness from gun owners.

In fact, evidence for this can be found when looking at Switzerland. Often cited by “pro-gun” people for their relatively low gun crime rate and virtually universal ownership, what is not mentioned is the fact that gun laws there are actually more restrictive than they are in most of the United States. For example, carry permits in Switzerland require successful completion of an examination of both weapon handling skills and legal knowledge, a plausible need (“may issue”, but liberally applied), and meeting the general requirements for firearms purchase (18+, no known psychological problems, security issues, or criminal history). In addition, male Swiss citizens are required to serve in the military, where they receive firearms training (for women it is optional, but all professions in the military are open to them, including combat roles), tho “opting out” to civil service is permitted. Ammunition purchases are registered with the government. Additionally, the military-owned firearms stored at home have been factory modified to remove their full-auto capabilities after the term of militia service has been completed.

Because of the regulation of legal guns, it is unsurprising that guns used in crime in Switzerland – the intentional gun deaths that the above discussion ignores – are almost exclusively stolen or otherwise illegally acquired, much like in the US. However, Switzerland’s regulations and widespread training seem to do a much better job of keeping firearms off of the black market.

Ironically, due to their widespread ownership, guns are used in domestic violence in Switzerland far more frequently than in the United States.

I think there are lessons to be learned from the Swiss example, and it’s not “universal ownership”. It’s that training (and training and more training) and regulation lead to more responsible gun ownership. And that’s something we should all be in favor of.

Off to the range for tonight’s class!

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