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The Perils and Responsibilities of Gun Ownership

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Recently, a very tragic story made national news.  A young mother of four small children was shopping in Wal-Mart when her two-year-old son reached into her purse, grabbed her legally concealed firearm and accidently shot her.  Now her husband and children mourn the loss of their wonderful wife and mother.  Not only is the loss of her life regrettable, think about the horror that poor little child will face growing up knowing he killed his mother.  Even though, it was an accident, the grief and guilt upon the family must be unimaginable.

This unfortunate event serves as a harsh reminder of the realities and responsibilities that accompany gun ownership.  By all accounts, the mother was a law-abiding citizen. She had a legally-obtained firearm, concealed weapons permit, and her firearm was legally concealed inside her purse. She did everything right.  But for the quick minute she turned her back, somehow her son was able to retrieve the gun and the unthinkable happened.  Accidents happen – it’s a fact of life.  In order to avoid such incidences, the decision to carry a gun must entail the decision to live with a heightened level of awareness and responsibility, especially around children. Gun safety must be the priority of any gun owner.  Situations can change in the blink of an eye, and you must always be prepared to face it.

Concealed carry is the practice of carrying a weapon in a public place in a concealed manner, either on one’s person or in close proximity (such as a purse, backpack or bag). Not all weapons that fall under concealed carry controls are lethal, however.  A weapon can be pepper spray or a stun gun.  There are no federal laws that control concealed carry, it is up to the individual states.

There are many federal and state laws that govern firearms and weapons.  State laws vary between each individual state.  Some states allow open carry in public, which means the firearm/weapon is visible to others (such as in a hip holster).  Other states only allow concealed carry, which means the weapon is hidden from view.  And each State has its own laws governing the eligibility and process for obtaining a concealed weapons permit.  There are also various restrictions to concealed carry, depending on the state. So if you are traveling or moving, you must be mindful of the laws in the area.  Don’t assume anything. Just because your state allows something doesn’t mean another state has the same laws.

All 50 states have enacted some type of concealed carry laws, whether with a permit or without.  Many states require a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon.  A concealed carry permit is obtained through the government or law enforcement and allows a person to legally carry a hidden weapon or firearm.  The permit isn’t tied to one particular firearm, as many people believe. Some people think you have to get a specific permit to carry a specific weapon. That is untrue.  Basically, it means if you have a permit then you are allowed to legally carry any concealed weapon or firearm.

Additionally, all states have enacted special laws dealing with firearms and children.  In Florida, all loaded firearms must be secure from a child’s access.  This means the firearm (and ammo) must be in a locked box, container or otherwise secured by a lock. Adults are responsible for making sure that children cannot handle guns and weapons without adequate adult supervision.  This applies not only in the home, but other places where a child may have access, such as a vehicle, boat or purse.  Violations of these laws can result in both criminal and civil liabilities. The criminal exposure is vast and can range from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the situation.  For example, it is a misdemeanor to fail to stop a child from gaining access to a firearm.  If the child grabs the gun and accidently shoots someone, the penalties for the gun owner are more severe.  Let’s say the child injures or kills someone, then the gun owner could be charged with serious felonies like criminal negligence, aggravated assault, manslaughter or even murder.  Depending on the charge, they’re looking at a very lengthy prison sentence, possibly for the rest of their life.  Ironically, if the mother in the Wal-Mart case survived her gunshot wound then she might have been arrested for a crime, even though she was the one who was injured.  But that didn’t happen, in this case.  Regretfully, she suffered the ultimate penalty:  her life.

The decision to own a firearm is just the first step in a series of steps needed to educate, train and practice. The freedom to own and use firearms is a Constitutional right that can be exercised and enjoyed by all eligible and responsible parties.  But with that right brings responsibilities that do not end with the purchase of a firearm.  You must always continue to learn the law and get firearms training.  There are many reputable classes that teach a skill, weapons handling, and safety.  You can do research online and find many useful educational materials and videos.  It’s not enough just to protect yourself from criminal and civil liability Complacency doesn’t pay.    You also need to learn to protect your life and the life of others.

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