Maintaining the safety and sanctity of a home goes hand-in-hand with the pursuit of the American dream of home ownership.
But as the gun-safety war in Washington and elsewhere rages on, determining the most effective way to protect a home and the family while safeguarding firearms from falling into the wrong or untrained hands is one of the biggest questions facing families today.
Amid a disturbing home-invasion crime trend in the area and the nation’s recent conversation on gun control, homeowner firearm safety is at the forefront of the national conversation.
Last month, Elmwood Place police searched for six suspects after an armed home invasion robbery in which the two victims told officers a white female knocked on their door, and once they opened the door, she stepped out of the way for a black male suspect brandishing a firearm.
Four additional suspects cleared the residence, according to police. Numerous big-screen televisions, video game consoles and computers were among the items stolen during the home invasion.
Incidents such as violent home invasions have fueled people to search for protection to the tune of roughly 2.5 million background checks conducted on a monthly basis since the beginning of December 2012, according to the FBI.
In Ohio, background checks increased in every month from September to December 2012, reaching a peak of 102,531, according to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
In January, however, the number dropped to 83,966, but that’s more than double compared to January 2012 numbers.
In Kentucky, 238,510 background checks were conducted in January 2013, compared to 199,339 the previous year.
And with 270 million guns in the hands of civilians, according to gunpolicy.org, simply stashing a gun in the top shelf of a closet doesn’t guarantee it won’t end up in the hands of an intruder or criminal anymore.
“Top shelf of your closet, in the back of your sock drawer and in your nightstand are all places that a thief would look for a gun,” said Gene Ferrara, the former chief of police at the University of Cincinnati and gun safety expert. “So why play into his hands?”
Ferrara recommends gunlocks, trigger guards, lockboxes and gun safes as effective methods to secure a firearm while at home. Lockboxes and safes range from as little as $25 up to $1,000.
More importantly, respecting the power of firearms is the best way to insure responsible gun ownership, said Tom Wood, a retired Cincinnati police and SWAT team officer, who has seen a recent rise in enrollment in his weekly gun safety classes.
“Everybody think’s that they’re so safe – ‘I’m going to put a gun under my pillow, a gun under my mattress’” Wood said. “Well, we really try to dissuade that.”
Both Ferrara and Wood emphasize teaching children the power of firearms. Wood said it removes the mystery of firearms.
“If there’s a small child and they get an airsoft gun, show them how it will destroy something,” Wood said. “Once you pull the trigger, you can’t call it back, so it’s a devastating tool.”
For more gun owner statistics from Gallup, visit http://www.wcpo.com/generic/news/Men-Married-Southerners-Most-Likely-to-Be-Gun-Owners .
Background Checks: Download NICS Firearm Background Checks 1998 - 2013
9 On Your Side reporter Larry Smith demonstrates how to safely secure firearms in your home in the video found on the left-hand side of the screen.
WCPO Digital Editor Kareem Elgazzar contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
If you do own a firearm, be sure that these rules are followed in your home (and, if applicable, the homes of relatives or friends that your child visits):
- Store guns in a securely locked case out of kids' reach. All firearms should be stored unloaded and in the uncocked position.
- Store ammunition in a separate place and in a securely locked container out of a child's reach.
- Keep keys where kids can't find them.
- Always use trigger locks or other childproof devices. Make revolvers childproof by attaching a padlock so that the cylinder can't be locked into place.
- Always practice gun safety, and be sure to emphasize to children that guns aren't toys and should never be played with.
- Teach children not to touch guns and tell an adult if they find one.
- Take a firearm safety course to learn the safe and correct way to use your firearm.
- Lock up gun-cleaning supplies, which are often poisonous.
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