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Anti-gun initiative full of blanks

By Bob Barr

June 21 was the first day of summer. Most folks knew that. But I bet few people — very few — knew that the 21st day of June was also the fifth annual "National ASK Day." In this context, "ASK" stands for "asking saves kids."

By now you might be asking yourself, what is this about? Why should I care? The answer to the last question aside — the answer seems obvious given that so few people have ever heard of the ASK program — what we're talking about here is another one of the many so-called "programs" being pushed by various groups that, in one way or another, don't like firearms.

This ASK program is pushed primarily by a group calling itself PAX: Real Solutions to Gun Violence, which has a Web site (listing phone and fax numbers but no address) containing some statistics, a letter and some materials to "help" those who want to participate in the ASK program.

What exactly does this ASK program do? Not much. It essentially directs parents to ask the parents of children with whom their children play if they — the other parents — have any guns in their home. The point is, I suppose, that if you as a parent ask such a question, you can then keep your kids away from those houses at which — shudder — firearms might be present (probably about half of all homes in America, and probably higher in Georgia).

The silliness of this approach is apparent. First of all, if someone were to ask most Americans, "Do you have any guns in your house?" they'd be met either with "That's certainly none of your business" or with a lie ("Of course not").

Even if someone were naive enough to tell someone that they did have a gun in the house, what would you do about it once armed with such a revealing and valuable piece of information? Start crossing those homes off the list of places your children could play? Accompany them if and when they visit such homes? Turn the people over to the authorities as possible terrorists?

And what would you do when your children wind up visiting those homes anyway, which they probably would be even more likely to do once they know or surmise that a certain home is off limits or that it has a gun in it?

Even as venerable a publication as Good Housekeeping has gotten in on the ASK bandwagon, running a short missive describing the program and urging its readers to participate. What does the question of which American homes have firearms in them have to do with good housekeeping? Absolutely nothing.

On a more fundamental level, however, the ASK program is another politically correct effort to turn Americans very subtly — some not so subtly — against firearms. It uses heart-rending stories (of which there are many for whatever product one decides to attack) and statistics of fear to make its point.

For example, in reading the ASK materials, one would think that accidental deaths of children in America are an epidemic, or at least at a very high level. The fact is, accidental deaths of children from firearms are at an all-time low — a trend that has continued over the past decade even as the number of firearms maintained lawfully by Americans in their homes has increased.

Even according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental deaths of children by firearms remains far behind other accidental causes of death such as drowning, motor vehicles, poisoning, fire, falls and suffocation. The same holds for other countries, including those in which private ownership of firearms is unlawful or severely restricted.

If parents are truly concerned with reducing the chances their child will be harmed or killed at a friend's house, perhaps they ought to worry more about asking whether the other parents have a swimming pool, a car, stairs, any substances that might be poisonous to humans, or plastic bags lying around. More importantly, however, they might want to simply remind their own children of the four basic, common sense rules to follow if a child sees a firearm: "Stop. Do not touch it. Leave the area immediately. Tell an adult."

Why doesn't ASK or Good Housekeeping devote their resources to endorsing such a common-sense message? Simple — it's a message the National Rifle Association has been promoting for years through its "Eddie Eagle" program in kindergarten and grade schools, and therefore not sufficiently politically correct for ASK or Good Housekeeping.

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