In remarks to the Tucson Drinking Liberally group on April 30, Maddy Urken noted that over 900 people were killed in by guns in Arizona in 2013. Maddy is a member of Arizonans for Gun Safety, a non-profit organization with chapters in Phoenix and Tucson. The organization wants to reduce gun deaths and injuries by applying common sense solutions to an emotional, complex problem. With Arizona’s gun violence death rate ranked among the higher ones in the country, the organization has a great deal of work to do.
They give away free gunlocks, offer gun safety tips and urge people to keep loaded weapons out of the reach of children. Owners are encouraged to store guns unloaded in a safe place. Bullets should be stored separately. The organization pushes the use of gunlocks because they are an excellent safety feature, preventing the accidental discharge of a firearm. The organization has had some success in getting gun safety related bulls passed by the state legislature. In the recent session, the temperamental Arizona Legislature failed to act on a number of bills that Arizonans for Gun Safety considered beneficial to the state’s safety environment.
A majority of the legislators didn’t accept the concept of making the discharge of a firearm while intoxicated a class 6 felony. They refused to consider establishing a committee to study Arizona’s stand your ground laws. Although it has strong public support, the proposal to require universal background checks for all firearms transfers, private and commercial, remained buried in the legislative process. The lawmakers didn’t want to pass a bill requiring firearms to be secured if there is a possibility they would be accessible to children. The legislature balked at reinstating the ability of local authorities to destroy firearms that had been seized or surrendered voluntarily.
Unlike the military and law enforcement environments in which safety is repeatedly emphasized during training for handling deadly weapons, the civilian approach to gun safety in Arizona appears to be rather sloppy. It is estimated that about a third of Arizona’s households contain one or more guns of some type. Arizonans also tend to leave their loaded and unlocked guns lying around the home at a higher rate than the national average. In a country awash in firearms, the ease of access is a factor affecting the number of suicide gun deaths and the homicide rate. In approximately 40% of child gun deaths in Arizona, the weapon involved was owned by the child’s parents, step parents or relatives. Like it or not, owning a gun carries with it a responsibility to understand and implement safety practices.