I've never shot a gun. Never even held one. Wouldn't ever want one in my house. But there are those who can't live without that "protection."

This debate can go many ways, but a gun in the house - a house where children live - is welcoming trouble. No sound-thinking human being can say (after the horrible fact), "I didn't think it could happen."

It can happen and happen...many times, simply because the gun was there and a child's mind is very curious.

While the selling of firearms won't be prohibited, the gun industry is providing millions of free gun locks to everyone from young mothers, hunters and all in between to help prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands.

USA Today reports that the National Shooting Sports Foundation -ˆ¬ the trade association for the firearms and shooting sports industry -ˆ¬ targeted five states recently with Project ChildSafe. It visited New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska to conclude the second phase of the program, which has now helped all 50 states, giving away about 28 million locks since Sept. 2003.

Through 2007, the organization will focus on safety education and distribute 3 million more gun locks. That 31-million gun-lock giveaway is unfortunately just a small notch in the total number of 240 million guns that are in the U.S.

Too many of those guns are "hidden" in family-filled homes - tucked away in a sock drawer, at the back of the liquor cabinet, under the mattress or stuffed in the closet. All of which are supposedly off-limits or perfect secret spots where mom or dad would never suspect any accidental discovery.

A report published in Sept. 2005 in the Pediatrics online journal said that about 1.7 million children live in homes with unlocked and loaded guns. That number is staggering. Does the parent just assume his or her sweet innocent child will never find it? And they'd be smart enough to know it's not a toy? Get real.

Consider this... Of 1,400 children and teenagers shot to death in 2005, roughly 90 percent were at home when the incident occurred. I'll say it a million times - that's the parents' fault.

They need to use even a little sound sense to know a gun in the house is welcoming an incident. (Not an accident - the gun didn't fall into the hand of a 5- year-old and magically pull its own trigger).

The lock giveaway coincided with expected federal legislation that would shield gunmakers and dealers from most lawsuits stemming from criminal use of firearms. The U.S. Senate passed the bill in July and the House of Representatives is likely to do so soon.

Sponsors say the legislation is necessary to protect the industry from financial ruin in the face of litigation. That's an entirely different topic, though.

The safety kits distributed by Project ChildSafe and law enforcement agencies included gun locks with keys similar to those used on bicycles, and brochures on how to safely store a weapon. The safest method in preventing anything from happening is abstinence. Kids of this generation are too smart.

While many adults can't program a VCR, a 5-year-old (or younger) is certainly capable of loading a weapon and playing a little game. The gun lock may just pose a bigger challenge to their young mind.

Chris Barnes' columns, archives and more are available online at www.berksmontnews.com.

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