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More Ammo for Gun Education : A 13-Year-Old Dies in La Palma; Gun Bill Dies in Sacramento

This week in La Palma, a 13-year-old boy was accidently shot by a 12-year-old friend he was visiting, and later died. Police said there had been a rule in the house that the handgun must be kept unloaded. But as one officer observed, “Somebody loaded it. It didn’t load itself.”

How an unloaded gun gets loaded and into the hands of an adolescent is a bitter mystery in a long-running national tragedy. If all the allegedly “disarmed” and “safely stored” guns were as advertised, the world would be a safer place for youngsters like Adam LaFortune, the victim.

But despite the need for basic education on the safe storage and handling of firearms, a sensible effort to require new handgun owners to complete a safety training course faltered last month when Gov. George Deukmejian sent a puzzling veto message to the Legislature. For the evident benefit of gun-control people, the governor noted in his veto message that, " . . . if you pay $17 and sit in a class without paying any attention or learning anything, you are still given a certificate . . . .” And he worried that the lack of a nearby course might somehow prove inconvenient, and “a barrier to the purchase of a handgun.”

The vetoed legislation, sponsored by Assemblyman Rusty Areias (D-Los Banos), would not by any means have been a cure-all.

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There is no course in the world that can give people the minimum common sense needed to keep a handgun unloaded. No Ph.D is required to understand that guns must be kept totally out of the reach of children.

But at least the proposed law could have ensured that there was some safety training for purchasers of handguns. For a gun, like an automobile, is a potential killer; the state has the right to require education and licensing. Now the fate of passage awaits a new administration--perhaps one not inclined to veto it. Yet so far neither gubernatorial candidate has declared his or her position on this bill.


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