Gun safety with babies around

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  April 14, 2010 06:00 AM

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I have a 9-month-old daughter, and her dad and I have split up.  He has a .45 and he owns rifles that he uses to go hunting.  He keeps the rifles in his gun safe but has his .45 sitting in a drawer right next to the baby's crib.  I feel that is very unsafe and I was wondering if it's illegal not to have a gun locked up in a gun safe, especially if you own one.  Someone told me that it's illegal to have a gun sitting in a drawer like that, especially with a baby around.  It's not safe and he could get in trouble for it.  Is that true?

From: RJeepgurl, Douglasville

Hi RJeepGurl --

Next to the crib??

Doesn't common sense dictate that this doesn't make sense?

Umm, not necessarily, said Terrel Harris, communications director in the Mass. Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. In a phone interview, he had a much more sympathetic take on what your baby's dad might be thinking. "'This is just a baby, a baby can't get into anything, so this is a safe place.'"

Understanding only goes so far, though. "That doesn't necessarily make it a good decision," Harris said. "Kids grow up quicker than we realize." Or put another way: Before you know it, that baby will be mobile and physical enough to open a drawer, and curious enough to want to know what this shiny thing is.

Whether this is illegal depends on two points: Is the gun licensed? Does it have a safety latch? Mass State Law stipulates, "It shall be unlawful to store or keep any firearm, rifle or shotgun including, but not limited to, large capacity weapons, or machine gun in any place unless such weapon is secured in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device."

It is also a violation of this law "if a person under under the age of 18 may have access, without committing an unforeseeable trespass" to the weapon. Furthermore, such access "shall be evidence of wanton or reckless conduct in any criminal or civil proceeding ."

Legal or not, accidents happen. It seems to me, RJeepGurl, you have a right to have a say in where and how guns are stored in a home in which your child lives.  For all the rest of us, I have this question: Have you ever asked the parents of your child's playmates if there are guns in their home? It may sound like a rude question, but it's not. I learned that the first time I ever asked it: Responsible gun owners are only too happy to answer. Has anyone had an experience to share? Gun owners out there: What do you think about this dad keeping a gun in the baby's room?

I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

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39 comments so far...
  1. next to a crib??? that doesn't sound bright at all. I believe one has the right to bear arms and all but seriously be responsible about it. I do not understand the logic of keeping a gun in the baby's room anyway. Especially that she is getting to an age of curiosity. You have every right to ask that he get his guns removed and out of reach and out of harms way. What is he thinking???? Sorry but reading this angers me. I can see the headline in the news now....

    Illegal or not...that is NOT the point. The point is the safety of your child. If he wants to keep guns, that is fine. He needs to lock them up ....and get them out of the babys room

    Posted by jd April 14, 10 07:43 AM
  1. Is this for real? Try talking to a local LAWYER to find out what the laws are, not an advice columnist! And then talk to your lawyer about changing the custody agreement...

    Posted by akmom April 14, 10 08:40 AM
  1. Whether or not you are pro-gun, anyone with half a brain would think that keeping guns, household chemicals, and medicines far away from any child under 4 was a good idea. This guy is an accident waiting to happen.

    Posted by bms April 14, 10 09:22 AM
  1. akmom is absolutely correct...you need to get a lawyer and change the custody agreement since this is a clear violation of the Mass. gun statutes and a definite endangerment of the child.
    Also, I would recommend that you may want to contact your local police department on the matter.

    Posted by bobg357 April 14, 10 09:43 AM
  1. My husband collects mostly antique guns - and inherited a bunch from his Dad. There was never any ammunition in the house, just the guns. But as soon as we knew we were expecting, we went out and bought a gun safe from Bass Pro Shops.
    My son is only 2, so no friends that come over yet :) When he gets older, I'd be only too glad to explain to his friends' parents how we store the guns and that we have no ammunition in the house.

    Posted by developergrrl April 14, 10 10:22 AM
  1. I'm all for guns, and grew up with them, and like to shoot them when I can. But one of the "rules" of gun ownership is that you keep the guns unloaded and the ammunition separate when not ready to fire them. If he wants to keep a gun in the room, it should be in a gun safe that only he can open and ideally he will also keep the ammunition somewhere else. I know that is likely some fantasy world, but that's how it should be.

    Kids will be kids, and yes, they will get into that drawer sooner than you think. You can't protect them against everything, but there are many ways to lock up a gun safely so they can't get at it. And at the age they can get into that drawer, they are likely to be too young to understand firearm safety.

    Posted by J April 14, 10 10:28 AM
  1. jd, I assume the crib is in the father's bedroom right now, and the gun is in the drawer of the father's nightstand or dresser. But that is beside the point.

    My now husband kept one of his handguns in his bedside table before we were married - "for protection". He also kept his other guns in a lockable cabinet - that he frequently "forgot" to lock. Basically he was a lazy bachelor with some fallacious notions about home defense.

    I suspect a similar situation here. The dad is in denial about how much having a child changes how one must live one's life. He probably has some mistaken notions and hasn't really thought through the risk/benefit balance. Risk of an armed intruder vs. risk of an accident. Value of his property vs. value of his child's life. Also, I think a lot of gun owners view the MA law as akin to the speed limits - a good idea in principle but restrictive & inconvenient - so they ignore it.

    Fortunately the solution was easy in my case. I talked to my DH (then boyfriend), and if the LW hasn't done so yet, she needs to talk to her ex. But put it in the terms that I just mentioned. The "value of property vs. value of a child's life" when coupled with "risk of accident" was particularly effective with my husband. The illegality less so.

    His response was perfect - he removed the gun from his bedside table, and before he sold his place & moved into mine, he bought a gun safe with a combo lock, where ALL his guns now reside.

    If talking to your ex doesn't about the risks doesn't work, you may need to "bring out the big guns", so to speak, and threaten to alter the custody arrangement to his disadvantage. I suspect the courts would back you up on this one, especially given that he's probably breaking the law.

    Posted by A Nonny Mouse April 14, 10 10:58 AM
  1. I completely agree with the posters that say you need to work on getting that custody agreement changed, PRONTO. And I really, really can't believe that you KNOW there's a unsecured firearm where your baby can access it and you are wasting time writing to advice columnists. The second I found out about that, I would have been on the phone to my attorney and the police, and my baby would not be setting foot in that house again until the situation was rectified.

    Babies are much cuter with their heads intact.

    Posted by Amanda April 14, 10 11:44 AM
  1. Well, I'm not sure that Douglasville is even in MA, to be honest; Google seems to think it's in Georgia, so different state laws might apply. Regardless -- this is a question for a local authority (lawyer, law enforcement), not a parenting column. Not sure if the letter writer has any kind of formal custody arrangement in place, but I'd be looking to get one.

    Posted by GC1016 April 14, 10 11:44 AM
  1. As a lawyer, I second the local-lawyer advice suggestions, but only after a calm conversation such as "hey, you have a gun safe. Could you do my peace of mind a favor and keep ALL the guns in it, now that there is a small child around?"

    Make it a favor to you, because in part, it is. Try not to make everything into a battle. I might be reading too much into this, but I have to think the father has put the gun in the baby's room in an effort to be able to protect the baby. If this is his motivation, it's just a question of emphasizing that his intentions are good, but he's doing more harm than good with how he's carrying it out.

    Posted by Q April 14, 10 12:04 PM
  1. I think your interpretation of "safety latch," like the safety on most firearms, may be rather different from the state law. Googling quickly turned up a story from last month saying the state requires gun *locks*/trigger locks, which are more akin to a bike lock than a latch.

    http://www.examiner.com/x-7133-Boston-Gun-Rights-Examiner~y2010m3d12-Massachuetts-Supreme-Court-upholds-state-gunlock-requirement

    Posted by Mike S. April 14, 10 02:39 PM
  1. He is definately a tool box and I would have his custody terminated if I was her. (Yes I have guns and children.) What a donkey!

    Posted by Peter Bishop April 14, 10 03:51 PM
  1. I am really amazed how stupid people can be. Yes, we have the right to bear arms but come on, think with the big head for a change.

    Posted by sophie08 April 14, 10 05:48 PM
  1. Your primary concern should be getting your child out of there otherwise you are as culpable as your ex. But while we're on the subject of asking your kid's friend's parents if they have a gun in the house, ask if the pool gate is locked, there's safety latches on the doors where the cleaning products are kept, if car keys are out of reach (young kids HAVE stolen cars), there's plastic caps in all the free outlets, and if their dogs/cats/ferrets and any other pet is good with kids. Stupid is as stupid does and the only effective solution is removing the child from the problem area.

    Posted by C. Sense April 14, 10 09:06 PM
  1. Maybe Dad just wanted the kid to learn how to shoot a firearm early,before Obama outlaws them.

    Posted by Kazabud April 14, 10 09:47 PM
  1. What's really, truly sad is that you just can't legislate common sense. This is just a tragedy waiting to happen. How can this man function with his head inserted so far into his own backside?

    Posted by ReginaFalange April 14, 10 10:26 PM
  1. Ummm - folks, wait a moment here. I beg to differ.

    Douglasville appears to be in GA, not MA.

    With this in mind, let me remind/inform you that NO LAW WAS BROKEN.

    In the state of GA, as in most states, there is absolutely no requirement that one keep their firearm locked in a safe or secured with a trigger lock. In fact, MA is one of a few that does require this.

    Summation. Douglasvill is not subject to MA laws and therefore no crime was committed.

    Now, I don't mean to imply that it's wise to leave a loaded firearm around any child. I wouldn't. but it is, like it or not, completely normal and legal, in the vast majority of this nation, to do so. What this means is that all of you raving about "calling the police" and "contacting lawyers" would be laughed out of the office/station/court almost anywhere else as well you should be. Don't you realize we have to pay a whole slew of state functionaries to listen to this drek?

    What a strange and hysterical state this is. I simply can't buy into your madness.

    If you ask me ,or even my generally-honest wife, about firearms, we'll simply smile and lie to you; primarily because it's not your business. Further, you all appear too hysterical to be trusted with grown up stuff like firearms ownership.

    MA...so much education, so much ignorance.

    Posted by Nathaniel April 15, 10 12:22 AM
  1. Some guns have integral locks that disable the gun without use of a key. These *may* meet the requirements of Mass General Law (I am unable to find a test case). The more common "safety" is simply a dingus that requires a control be moved from a "Safe" to a "fire" position. This sort of safety absolutely does not need the MGL storage requirement.

    Posted by Simon D'Og April 15, 10 12:50 AM
  1. There is a very real possibility the letter us not someone facing the described problem, but a person representing an advocacy position on one side of a politically charged subject - and using this question as a way to create an example of irresponsible gun ownership in the press/

    I'm not saying this with certainty, but it sure smells like a fabricated question.

    Posted by Simon D'Og April 15, 10 12:55 AM
  1. Have you ever asked the parents of your child's playmates if there are guns in their home?

    Yes, once, after I found out my in-laws had guns in their home and never told me. (Their reason: I never asked.) The woman looked at me like I had 3 heads and never let our kids play again. She never answered the question. She also avoided me at every school function and then her kid started bullying my kid (her kid bullied nearly everyone, but I didn't know it then). I think she had guns but didn't want to admit it. Why else would she act that way? Someone told me that gun owners don't want to tell anyone because of fear of having the gun stolen. Could that be it? I think a gun owner should be required by law to tell the parent if a child under 18 enters their home.

    Posted by Mrs. Bash April 15, 10 08:25 AM
  1. 9 month old baby ..... where is this drawer ?

    Does he keep the weapon loaded in the drawer ?

    Common sense should reign here. Should the gun (loaded or unloaded) be in the room ? no. I own several fire arms, and have years of experience ...and would never keep it in the same room. Locked or unlocked.

    However,
    I agree, you should not be asking this person about gun safety / and or laws ....
    What is a safety latch Barbara ? Do you mean a gun safey ? ( a mechanical safety physically on the gun or inside that prevents the weapons from firing ?) or do you mean a weapon lock ? ( seperate device that prevents the weapon from firing)
    MA has some of the most anti gun laws ( in which only law abiding citz get punished) in all US. Why own a gun for personal defense if it has to be locked up ? Why cater to law suits brought on by criminals that hurt themselves engaged in robbery / burglary ? Thats good old MA !!!

    I carry a gun because I can not carry a cop !

    Posted by mike April 15, 10 08:40 AM
  1. If he keeps the .45 out for home defense, tell him to get something like a GunVault (www.gunvault.com). It's inexpensive, small, easy to mount, and with just a little practice, very easy to open quickly in the dark.

    Keeping a loaded firearm in a nightstand drawer is just stupid.

    Posted by Madrocketscientist April 15, 10 09:39 AM
  1. Having a gun in his bedroom with the baby oh heavens know. The evil eminating may corrupt the child or it may jump out of drawer and shoot baby in the night. My God people it is an inanimate tool with no supernatureal power and will do nothing on its own. Laws of physics an object at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force sets it in motion.

    Now onto the true issue, no matter what room it is stored in.
    1) I would highly recommend he look into products like the gun vault. Children can get into places you never thought they could. He should take precautions.

    2) it us his home not yours you can only urge him to keep his childs safety in mind and the fact that the child is old enough to access the firearmwithout his knowlege.

    3) You gave up the direct influence on his actions habits and daily life when you separated.

    4) .45, 9mm, .22, 3,000,0000,0000 is irrelevant. Your inclusion of size shows that you are trying to scare people with evil numbers to your side of the argument. Who needs anything as big as xx anyway.

    ME:
    I have 3 kids. I have a gun vault type safe to keep prying fingers away when it is not directly under my control (I.E. on my person). Yes I carry. I want to come home to my kids at the end of the day. Yes I carry when I am with them. I want to bring them home safe at the end of the day. I do not want to have to live with the "If I could only have stopped then from (insert evildoing here(rape, murder, kidnapping)) my child."

    ow for those that want to ask if I have guns in my home. There are 2 reasons to not. Lets put a big sign outside of your house and my house next door to eachother. the First says NRA member. The other on your says Pround member of (xx) Gun banning group. Each has it's own problems. I am advertising to a criminal that there is a good possibility of being able to steal weapons when I'm not home. But they will probably stay away when I am and choose the easier target. You are saying that I do not have a formidable means of protection and come do what you like with me and my family bacuse If I can call the police they wont be here for atleast 15 minutes. Plenty of time for you to do your business.

    If a parent is concerned they can feel free to ask me there is no shame in it. But do't think that I wont ask the question right back. When you say no my child will probably not come over to your house to play. Why? Because you lack the ability and probably mental capacity to protect him/her if something happens.

    The reason for the looks. Most gun owners are pro rights people. That particular question has been proposed to parent by those who what to seriously infringe on our constitutions rights 1st,2nd,4th, 10th,.. You asking thatquestion tells us that you are a collectivist and we want as little to do with you as possible after that.

    Do you have a checklist that your friends go over and sign before your kids can play, Socet covers - check, cabinets locked - check, styrofoam covering on all objects - check, before you let your kids play at someones house? If you do they think your insane.

    Posted by Pat April 15, 10 10:43 AM
  1. I don't know why it being legal or illegal even matters, it isn't safe. My child would not be going over there. period.

    Posted by mo April 15, 10 11:59 AM
  1. Pat, your rant is why people think gun owners are a bunch of lunatics.

    Posted by cosmogirl April 15, 10 01:11 PM
  1. If a 9 month old baby can manipulate and fire a .45, you should actually make it a show and charge good money for it. At 9 months of age, a baby is still trying to figure out the concept of walking erect....and failing.
    Everybody, take a timeout and breed deep........ Baby is in no danger. He is more likely to eat that dead roach from the kitchen or stick a finger in an electrical plug.

    Posted by GrandpaMike April 15, 10 01:27 PM
  1. I agree with cosmogirl. Pat, your logical is irrational, your comments are just ridiculous (to say the very least). You are carrying a gun on you on a regular basis? I am very curious as to where you live, if you feel that unsafe you should probably look into moving elsewhere.

    Posted by emelee April 15, 10 01:58 PM
  1. OMG, Pat, get a grip. People would ask because they don't want your kid to try to show it off and then kill their kid by accident! It's happened many times. I would think even people that own guns would ask because everyone seems to have different rules. Some lock them up, some keep them in a drawer. Geesh.

    GrandpaMike...Maybe the baby can't do anything yet, but when is the magical day that he will move the gun to another place. Most kids can do things (like climb out of their crib) before parents expect them to, and it could be too late.

    Posted by Mom2boys April 15, 10 02:05 PM
  1. Oh, Pat. I find it funny that you believe you have more "mental capacity" than I do. Or more than anyone, for that matter.

    I'm not familiar with the "pro-rights" position. Pro which rights? All of them? Since you juxtaposed it with "collectivist" I'm going to assume you mean that most gun owners are anarchists. That's probably pretty offensive to both gun owners and anarchists.

    But enough silliness. As to your points #2 &3, you are mistaken. Since your rant did not include an indictment of the court system, you are probably fortunate enough to have not be subject to a court approved custody arrangement. Those who are, however, can most certainly march the other parent back into court and ask for a modification of the custody order if they have evidence that the current arrangement is potentially harmful to the child's welfare.

    Thank heaven you're breeding.

    Posted by Q April 15, 10 04:57 PM
  1. I think I know why she is his EX-wife - she has no sense of perspective.

    And she is a tattle-tale - running to an advice columnist over every little disagreement.

    And she is a meddling bully - she wants to get a bunch of people to agree with her, and then use that to go boss her EX-husband around.

    All for fear that an infant will access, load, manipulate, and fire a gun. This doesn't happen, even in the People's Republic of Massachusetts. You have years to go before a kid has the grip strength to load and fire a 45, even by accident. There are fully grown, adult women who don't have the strength to rack the slide on a 45.

    I think you are afraid of firearms in general, because you fear that which you do not understand.

    Posted by Joe April 15, 10 08:15 PM
  1. Yeah, this is a setup - she's angling to "get something" on the guy so she can use it to get revenge, money, power, etc.

    This guy should move with all his stuff and get away from this "JeepGurl" nutjob

    Posted by Joe Byden April 16, 10 09:48 AM
  1. A gun safe would be best. They make small ones that sit on nightstands that open quickly for home defense scenarios.

    The article never states if the weapon is kept loaded (or I missed it). If he is keeping the gun handy but keeping the magazine separate then its not so much of a problem. I doubt the baby will figure out how to load the mag, pull back the slide and fire off a round.

    But the gun safe is still best.

    People have very irrational responses to firearms. Its just education and common sense.

    Posted by Rydal April 16, 10 02:39 PM
  1. This is really sad. I fear for the safety of this baby. I hope to God you keep that infant away from the father until his home is safe. Broken laws or not, this is just an accident waiting to happen.

    Posted by itsybitsymama April 16, 10 03:46 PM
  1. I wasn't going to comment, because we had a fatal gun accident in our family and it is kind of close to home for me. I am not at all against gun ownership.

    Sure "it's just education and common sense" but quite a few people don't have much common sense. Same thing with cars; a couple of heartbroken people have hit kids in their own driveways recently.

    This mom has every right to ask questions and make demands to assure that her ex is using common sense and obeying the laws.

    Even people with lots of common sense in general don't know much about babies and toddlers. I am not familiar with custody laws or firearm ownership regs (Thanks Heavens!) but I have one additional suggestion. Perhaps the Mom and the Ex could meet with the child's pediatrician so that an neutral authority figure can explain how to childproof a household.

    Posted by usually post on other forums April 17, 10 12:13 PM
  1. "for those that want to ask if I have guns in my home" -- I don't ask because I care whether you have guns. I have guns myself. I ask because I want to know how you keep them. There are plenty of irresponsible gun owners in the world -- people who keep their guns in accessible places, either loaded or with ammo nearby -- and as I don't know you from Adam, I don't know whether you are a sensible gun owner or an irresponsible gun owner. A gun owner who gets offended at the very notion that a parent might want to check in on this is just loony, frankly. That you cannot see the point of the question -- or that you assume it is being asked out of some anti-gun, "people's republic of Mass" attitude is very illuminating. But sadly for you (and Nathanial, who would actually lie about it) it doesn't illuminate anything especially nice about your character or general mental competency.

    As for keeping the gun in the drawer, unlocked, near the baby:

    True, the baby can do nothing with the gun yet. But babies and children do not come with warnings that tell us, magically, when the day arrives that they would be able to reach and/or play with the gun. Responsible parents childproof their home. This includes making sure guns are inaccessible. If the ammo is in an entirely separate place that is inaccessible, that would serve the same purpose; the LW does not say if that is the case. But an unloaded gun poses no danger.

    Also, for those of you ranting that locking the gun prevents you from defending your home: I guess you'd be an uneducated gun owner. You should do some research about the likelihood of a gun saving your life versus the likelihood of an unlocked gun taking an innocent's life. And remember before you rant right back at me: I own guns also. Two. I keep them locked up. I've managed not to be killed by home invaders even so.

    Posted by jlen April 17, 10 03:54 PM
  1. I agree with everything JLen said but want to add a qualifier to " but an unloaded gun poses no danger." Children are fascinated by things that they aren't supposed to play with. Even if no words are spoken they can figure out that something is off-limits and it becomes very desirable. Think of matches. Children are interested in guns. They turn sticks and pencils and whatever into play guns.
    So, and I know no one is suggesting this, it isn't good for children to have casual access to an gun, even if it is unloaded. It isn't a toy.
    The potential for a child to get hold of a loaded weapon exists. It isn't intentional on the part of the gun owner; that's why the events are called accidents. It is up to the adults to behave in ways that help prevent accidents.
    Rhetoric doesn't prevent crime or accidents. If you have guns you should complete a training course with a reputable group. My family kept the guns and the ammunition separate...but there was still a fatality. My parents never recovered emotionally and their marriage died along with the death of a their child.
    I had the NRA rifle training as a young adult and I have a healthy respect for firearms.

    Posted by usually post on other forums April 18, 10 09:31 AM
  1. Buy your ex a small digital combination lock box--Walmart has them for around $25. These can be opened in a few seconds, and are a good compromise between quick access and child safety--I've got one mounted to the wall in my bedroom. Even though I don't have children living here anymore, if they do visit I can merely lock the box.

    Although if I were in your ex's circumstances I would lock the gun when I wasn't carrying it (I have a carry license), statistically your child is not in particular danger. Virtually every case initially reported as an "accident" involving a child under 4 turns out to have some risk factor such as drug dealing, history of domestic violence or an unemployed boyfriend babysitting a child from a previous relationship. If he takes virtually any precautions, such as moving it out of reach when your child can walk, or keeping it without a round chambered, your child is in far more danger from stairs and toilets.

    Posted by Sevesteen April 18, 10 01:13 PM
  1. There are cheap ways to secure a gun so that it will not be a problem. I believe the Danvers police will give you gratis a device that strings down through the barrel and out through the action and is tamper proof enough so that it cannot be used "accidentally". Obviously keeping the ammunition separate from the firearm is taught at every gun safety course I have seen. All the above said, its dumb to store the gun the way he is storing it. Put it in a gun sock to protect it. and lock it in the safe. What he may be doing might be legal but is stupid.

    Posted by ShrNfr April 18, 10 03:19 PM
  1. "I learned that the first time I ever asked it: Responsible gun owners are only too happy to answer."

    I used to ask a similar question when my kids stayed over at anyone's home. If the answer was, "No.", I asked why not. I'd feel safer if your family could protect my children in case of home invasion, danger at a store or anywhere/anytime that you were in a situation where it was your duty to keep my kids safe.

    Posted by Chuck Baudeer June 18, 10 03:19 PM
 
39 comments so far...
  1. next to a crib??? that doesn't sound bright at all. I believe one has the right to bear arms and all but seriously be responsible about it. I do not understand the logic of keeping a gun in the baby's room anyway. Especially that she is getting to an age of curiosity. You have every right to ask that he get his guns removed and out of reach and out of harms way. What is he thinking???? Sorry but reading this angers me. I can see the headline in the news now....

    Illegal or not...that is NOT the point. The point is the safety of your child. If he wants to keep guns, that is fine. He needs to lock them up ....and get them out of the babys room

    Posted by jd April 14, 10 07:43 AM
  1. Is this for real? Try talking to a local LAWYER to find out what the laws are, not an advice columnist! And then talk to your lawyer about changing the custody agreement...

    Posted by akmom April 14, 10 08:40 AM
  1. Whether or not you are pro-gun, anyone with half a brain would think that keeping guns, household chemicals, and medicines far away from any child under 4 was a good idea. This guy is an accident waiting to happen.

    Posted by bms April 14, 10 09:22 AM
  1. akmom is absolutely correct...you need to get a lawyer and change the custody agreement since this is a clear violation of the Mass. gun statutes and a definite endangerment of the child.
    Also, I would recommend that you may want to contact your local police department on the matter.

    Posted by bobg357 April 14, 10 09:43 AM
  1. My husband collects mostly antique guns - and inherited a bunch from his Dad. There was never any ammunition in the house, just the guns. But as soon as we knew we were expecting, we went out and bought a gun safe from Bass Pro Shops.
    My son is only 2, so no friends that come over yet :) When he gets older, I'd be only too glad to explain to his friends' parents how we store the guns and that we have no ammunition in the house.

    Posted by developergrrl April 14, 10 10:22 AM
  1. I'm all for guns, and grew up with them, and like to shoot them when I can. But one of the "rules" of gun ownership is that you keep the guns unloaded and the ammunition separate when not ready to fire them. If he wants to keep a gun in the room, it should be in a gun safe that only he can open and ideally he will also keep the ammunition somewhere else. I know that is likely some fantasy world, but that's how it should be.

    Kids will be kids, and yes, they will get into that drawer sooner than you think. You can't protect them against everything, but there are many ways to lock up a gun safely so they can't get at it. And at the age they can get into that drawer, they are likely to be too young to understand firearm safety.

    Posted by J April 14, 10 10:28 AM
  1. jd, I assume the crib is in the father's bedroom right now, and the gun is in the drawer of the father's nightstand or dresser. But that is beside the point.

    My now husband kept one of his handguns in his bedside table before we were married - "for protection". He also kept his other guns in a lockable cabinet - that he frequently "forgot" to lock. Basically he was a lazy bachelor with some fallacious notions about home defense.

    I suspect a similar situation here. The dad is in denial about how much having a child changes how one must live one's life. He probably has some mistaken notions and hasn't really thought through the risk/benefit balance. Risk of an armed intruder vs. risk of an accident. Value of his property vs. value of his child's life. Also, I think a lot of gun owners view the MA law as akin to the speed limits - a good idea in principle but restrictive & inconvenient - so they ignore it.

    Fortunately the solution was easy in my case. I talked to my DH (then boyfriend), and if the LW hasn't done so yet, she needs to talk to her ex. But put it in the terms that I just mentioned. The "value of property vs. value of a child's life" when coupled with "risk of accident" was particularly effective with my husband. The illegality less so.

    His response was perfect - he removed the gun from his bedside table, and before he sold his place & moved into mine, he bought a gun safe with a combo lock, where ALL his guns now reside.

    If talking to your ex doesn't about the risks doesn't work, you may need to "bring out the big guns", so to speak, and threaten to alter the custody arrangement to his disadvantage. I suspect the courts would back you up on this one, especially given that he's probably breaking the law.

    Posted by A Nonny Mouse April 14, 10 10:58 AM
  1. I completely agree with the posters that say you need to work on getting that custody agreement changed, PRONTO. And I really, really can't believe that you KNOW there's a unsecured firearm where your baby can access it and you are wasting time writing to advice columnists. The second I found out about that, I would have been on the phone to my attorney and the police, and my baby would not be setting foot in that house again until the situation was rectified.

    Babies are much cuter with their heads intact.

    Posted by Amanda April 14, 10 11:44 AM
  1. Well, I'm not sure that Douglasville is even in MA, to be honest; Google seems to think it's in Georgia, so different state laws might apply. Regardless -- this is a question for a local authority (lawyer, law enforcement), not a parenting column. Not sure if the letter writer has any kind of formal custody arrangement in place, but I'd be looking to get one.

    Posted by GC1016 April 14, 10 11:44 AM
  1. As a lawyer, I second the local-lawyer advice suggestions, but only after a calm conversation such as "hey, you have a gun safe. Could you do my peace of mind a favor and keep ALL the guns in it, now that there is a small child around?"

    Make it a favor to you, because in part, it is. Try not to make everything into a battle. I might be reading too much into this, but I have to think the father has put the gun in the baby's room in an effort to be able to protect the baby. If this is his motivation, it's just a question of emphasizing that his intentions are good, but he's doing more harm than good with how he's carrying it out.

    Posted by Q April 14, 10 12:04 PM
  1. I think your interpretation of "safety latch," like the safety on most firearms, may be rather different from the state law. Googling quickly turned up a story from last month saying the state requires gun *locks*/trigger locks, which are more akin to a bike lock than a latch.

    http://www.examiner.com/x-7133-Boston-Gun-Rights-Examiner~y2010m3d12-Massachuetts-Supreme-Court-upholds-state-gunlock-requirement

    Posted by Mike S. April 14, 10 02:39 PM
  1. He is definately a tool box and I would have his custody terminated if I was her. (Yes I have guns and children.) What a donkey!

    Posted by Peter Bishop April 14, 10 03:51 PM
  1. I am really amazed how stupid people can be. Yes, we have the right to bear arms but come on, think with the big head for a change.

    Posted by sophie08 April 14, 10 05:48 PM
  1. Your primary concern should be getting your child out of there otherwise you are as culpable as your ex. But while we're on the subject of asking your kid's friend's parents if they have a gun in the house, ask if the pool gate is locked, there's safety latches on the doors where the cleaning products are kept, if car keys are out of reach (young kids HAVE stolen cars), there's plastic caps in all the free outlets, and if their dogs/cats/ferrets and any other pet is good with kids. Stupid is as stupid does and the only effective solution is removing the child from the problem area.

    Posted by C. Sense April 14, 10 09:06 PM
  1. Maybe Dad just wanted the kid to learn how to shoot a firearm early,before Obama outlaws them.

    Posted by Kazabud April 14, 10 09:47 PM
  1. What's really, truly sad is that you just can't legislate common sense. This is just a tragedy waiting to happen. How can this man function with his head inserted so far into his own backside?

    Posted by ReginaFalange April 14, 10 10:26 PM
  1. Ummm - folks, wait a moment here. I beg to differ.

    Douglasville appears to be in GA, not MA.

    With this in mind, let me remind/inform you that NO LAW WAS BROKEN.

    In the state of GA, as in most states, there is absolutely no requirement that one keep their firearm locked in a safe or secured with a trigger lock. In fact, MA is one of a few that does require this.

    Summation. Douglasvill is not subject to MA laws and therefore no crime was committed.

    Now, I don't mean to imply that it's wise to leave a loaded firearm around any child. I wouldn't. but it is, like it or not, completely normal and legal, in the vast majority of this nation, to do so. What this means is that all of you raving about "calling the police" and "contacting lawyers" would be laughed out of the office/station/court almost anywhere else as well you should be. Don't you realize we have to pay a whole slew of state functionaries to listen to this drek?

    What a strange and hysterical state this is. I simply can't buy into your madness.

    If you ask me ,or even my generally-honest wife, about firearms, we'll simply smile and lie to you; primarily because it's not your business. Further, you all appear too hysterical to be trusted with grown up stuff like firearms ownership.

    MA...so much education, so much ignorance.

    Posted by Nathaniel April 15, 10 12:22 AM
  1. Some guns have integral locks that disable the gun without use of a key. These *may* meet the requirements of Mass General Law (I am unable to find a test case). The more common "safety" is simply a dingus that requires a control be moved from a "Safe" to a "fire" position. This sort of safety absolutely does not need the MGL storage requirement.

    Posted by Simon D'Og April 15, 10 12:50 AM
  1. There is a very real possibility the letter us not someone facing the described problem, but a person representing an advocacy position on one side of a politically charged subject - and using this question as a way to create an example of irresponsible gun ownership in the press/

    I'm not saying this with certainty, but it sure smells like a fabricated question.

    Posted by Simon D'Og April 15, 10 12:55 AM
  1. Have you ever asked the parents of your child's playmates if there are guns in their home?

    Yes, once, after I found out my in-laws had guns in their home and never told me. (Their reason: I never asked.) The woman looked at me like I had 3 heads and never let our kids play again. She never answered the question. She also avoided me at every school function and then her kid started bullying my kid (her kid bullied nearly everyone, but I didn't know it then). I think she had guns but didn't want to admit it. Why else would she act that way? Someone told me that gun owners don't want to tell anyone because of fear of having the gun stolen. Could that be it? I think a gun owner should be required by law to tell the parent if a child under 18 enters their home.

    Posted by Mrs. Bash April 15, 10 08:25 AM
  1. 9 month old baby ..... where is this drawer ?

    Does he keep the weapon loaded in the drawer ?

    Common sense should reign here. Should the gun (loaded or unloaded) be in the room ? no. I own several fire arms, and have years of experience ...and would never keep it in the same room. Locked or unlocked.

    However,
    I agree, you should not be asking this person about gun safety / and or laws ....
    What is a safety latch Barbara ? Do you mean a gun safey ? ( a mechanical safety physically on the gun or inside that prevents the weapons from firing ?) or do you mean a weapon lock ? ( seperate device that prevents the weapon from firing)
    MA has some of the most anti gun laws ( in which only law abiding citz get punished) in all US. Why own a gun for personal defense if it has to be locked up ? Why cater to law suits brought on by criminals that hurt themselves engaged in robbery / burglary ? Thats good old MA !!!

    I carry a gun because I can not carry a cop !

    Posted by mike April 15, 10 08:40 AM
  1. If he keeps the .45 out for home defense, tell him to get something like a GunVault (www.gunvault.com). It's inexpensive, small, easy to mount, and with just a little practice, very easy to open quickly in the dark.

    Keeping a loaded firearm in a nightstand drawer is just stupid.

    Posted by Madrocketscientist April 15, 10 09:39 AM
  1. Having a gun in his bedroom with the baby oh heavens know. The evil eminating may corrupt the child or it may jump out of drawer and shoot baby in the night. My God people it is an inanimate tool with no supernatureal power and will do nothing on its own. Laws of physics an object at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force sets it in motion.

    Now onto the true issue, no matter what room it is stored in.
    1) I would highly recommend he look into products like the gun vault. Children can get into places you never thought they could. He should take precautions.

    2) it us his home not yours you can only urge him to keep his childs safety in mind and the fact that the child is old enough to access the firearmwithout his knowlege.

    3) You gave up the direct influence on his actions habits and daily life when you separated.

    4) .45, 9mm, .22, 3,000,0000,0000 is irrelevant. Your inclusion of size shows that you are trying to scare people with evil numbers to your side of the argument. Who needs anything as big as xx anyway.

    ME:
    I have 3 kids. I have a gun vault type safe to keep prying fingers away when it is not directly under my control (I.E. on my person). Yes I carry. I want to come home to my kids at the end of the day. Yes I carry when I am with them. I want to bring them home safe at the end of the day. I do not want to have to live with the "If I could only have stopped then from (insert evildoing here(rape, murder, kidnapping)) my child."

    ow for those that want to ask if I have guns in my home. There are 2 reasons to not. Lets put a big sign outside of your house and my house next door to eachother. the First says NRA member. The other on your says Pround member of (xx) Gun banning group. Each has it's own problems. I am advertising to a criminal that there is a good possibility of being able to steal weapons when I'm not home. But they will probably stay away when I am and choose the easier target. You are saying that I do not have a formidable means of protection and come do what you like with me and my family bacuse If I can call the police they wont be here for atleast 15 minutes. Plenty of time for you to do your business.

    If a parent is concerned they can feel free to ask me there is no shame in it. But do't think that I wont ask the question right back. When you say no my child will probably not come over to your house to play. Why? Because you lack the ability and probably mental capacity to protect him/her if something happens.

    The reason for the looks. Most gun owners are pro rights people. That particular question has been proposed to parent by those who what to seriously infringe on our constitutions rights 1st,2nd,4th, 10th,.. You asking thatquestion tells us that you are a collectivist and we want as little to do with you as possible after that.

    Do you have a checklist that your friends go over and sign before your kids can play, Socet covers - check, cabinets locked - check, styrofoam covering on all objects - check, before you let your kids play at someones house? If you do they think your insane.

    Posted by Pat April 15, 10 10:43 AM
  1. I don't know why it being legal or illegal even matters, it isn't safe. My child would not be going over there. period.

    Posted by mo April 15, 10 11:59 AM
  1. Pat, your rant is why people think gun owners are a bunch of lunatics.

    Posted by cosmogirl April 15, 10 01:11 PM
  1. If a 9 month old baby can manipulate and fire a .45, you should actually make it a show and charge good money for it. At 9 months of age, a baby is still trying to figure out the concept of walking erect....and failing.
    Everybody, take a timeout and breed deep........ Baby is in no danger. He is more likely to eat that dead roach from the kitchen or stick a finger in an electrical plug.

    Posted by GrandpaMike April 15, 10 01:27 PM
  1. I agree with cosmogirl. Pat, your logical is irrational, your comments are just ridiculous (to say the very least). You are carrying a gun on you on a regular basis? I am very curious as to where you live, if you feel that unsafe you should probably look into moving elsewhere.

    Posted by emelee April 15, 10 01:58 PM
  1. OMG, Pat, get a grip. People would ask because they don't want your kid to try to show it off and then kill their kid by accident! It's happened many times. I would think even people that own guns would ask because everyone seems to have different rules. Some lock them up, some keep them in a drawer. Geesh.

    GrandpaMike...Maybe the baby can't do anything yet, but when is the magical day that he will move the gun to another place. Most kids can do things (like climb out of their crib) before parents expect them to, and it could be too late.

    Posted by Mom2boys April 15, 10 02:05 PM
  1. Oh, Pat. I find it funny that you believe you have more "mental capacity" than I do. Or more than anyone, for that matter.

    I'm not familiar with the "pro-rights" position. Pro which rights? All of them? Since you juxtaposed it with "collectivist" I'm going to assume you mean that most gun owners are anarchists. That's probably pretty offensive to both gun owners and anarchists.

    But enough silliness. As to your points #2 &3, you are mistaken. Since your rant did not include an indictment of the court system, you are probably fortunate enough to have not be subject to a court approved custody arrangement. Those who are, however, can most certainly march the other parent back into court and ask for a modification of the custody order if they have evidence that the current arrangement is potentially harmful to the child's welfare.

    Thank heaven you're breeding.

    Posted by Q April 15, 10 04:57 PM
  1. I think I know why she is his EX-wife - she has no sense of perspective.

    And she is a tattle-tale - running to an advice columnist over every little disagreement.

    And she is a meddling bully - she wants to get a bunch of people to agree with her, and then use that to go boss her EX-husband around.

    All for fear that an infant will access, load, manipulate, and fire a gun. This doesn't happen, even in the People's Republic of Massachusetts. You have years to go before a kid has the grip strength to load and fire a 45, even by accident. There are fully grown, adult women who don't have the strength to rack the slide on a 45.

    I think you are afraid of firearms in general, because you fear that which you do not understand.

    Posted by Joe April 15, 10 08:15 PM
  1. Yeah, this is a setup - she's angling to "get something" on the guy so she can use it to get revenge, money, power, etc.

    This guy should move with all his stuff and get away from this "JeepGurl" nutjob

    Posted by Joe Byden April 16, 10 09:48 AM
  1. A gun safe would be best. They make small ones that sit on nightstands that open quickly for home defense scenarios.

    The article never states if the weapon is kept loaded (or I missed it). If he is keeping the gun handy but keeping the magazine separate then its not so much of a problem. I doubt the baby will figure out how to load the mag, pull back the slide and fire off a round.

    But the gun safe is still best.

    People have very irrational responses to firearms. Its just education and common sense.

    Posted by Rydal April 16, 10 02:39 PM
  1. This is really sad. I fear for the safety of this baby. I hope to God you keep that infant away from the father until his home is safe. Broken laws or not, this is just an accident waiting to happen.

    Posted by itsybitsymama April 16, 10 03:46 PM
  1. I wasn't going to comment, because we had a fatal gun accident in our family and it is kind of close to home for me. I am not at all against gun ownership.

    Sure "it's just education and common sense" but quite a few people don't have much common sense. Same thing with cars; a couple of heartbroken people have hit kids in their own driveways recently.

    This mom has every right to ask questions and make demands to assure that her ex is using common sense and obeying the laws.

    Even people with lots of common sense in general don't know much about babies and toddlers. I am not familiar with custody laws or firearm ownership regs (Thanks Heavens!) but I have one additional suggestion. Perhaps the Mom and the Ex could meet with the child's pediatrician so that an neutral authority figure can explain how to childproof a household.

    Posted by usually post on other forums April 17, 10 12:13 PM
  1. "for those that want to ask if I have guns in my home" -- I don't ask because I care whether you have guns. I have guns myself. I ask because I want to know how you keep them. There are plenty of irresponsible gun owners in the world -- people who keep their guns in accessible places, either loaded or with ammo nearby -- and as I don't know you from Adam, I don't know whether you are a sensible gun owner or an irresponsible gun owner. A gun owner who gets offended at the very notion that a parent might want to check in on this is just loony, frankly. That you cannot see the point of the question -- or that you assume it is being asked out of some anti-gun, "people's republic of Mass" attitude is very illuminating. But sadly for you (and Nathanial, who would actually lie about it) it doesn't illuminate anything especially nice about your character or general mental competency.

    As for keeping the gun in the drawer, unlocked, near the baby:

    True, the baby can do nothing with the gun yet. But babies and children do not come with warnings that tell us, magically, when the day arrives that they would be able to reach and/or play with the gun. Responsible parents childproof their home. This includes making sure guns are inaccessible. If the ammo is in an entirely separate place that is inaccessible, that would serve the same purpose; the LW does not say if that is the case. But an unloaded gun poses no danger.

    Also, for those of you ranting that locking the gun prevents you from defending your home: I guess you'd be an uneducated gun owner. You should do some research about the likelihood of a gun saving your life versus the likelihood of an unlocked gun taking an innocent's life. And remember before you rant right back at me: I own guns also. Two. I keep them locked up. I've managed not to be killed by home invaders even so.

    Posted by jlen April 17, 10 03:54 PM
  1. I agree with everything JLen said but want to add a qualifier to " but an unloaded gun poses no danger." Children are fascinated by things that they aren't supposed to play with. Even if no words are spoken they can figure out that something is off-limits and it becomes very desirable. Think of matches. Children are interested in guns. They turn sticks and pencils and whatever into play guns.
    So, and I know no one is suggesting this, it isn't good for children to have casual access to an gun, even if it is unloaded. It isn't a toy.
    The potential for a child to get hold of a loaded weapon exists. It isn't intentional on the part of the gun owner; that's why the events are called accidents. It is up to the adults to behave in ways that help prevent accidents.
    Rhetoric doesn't prevent crime or accidents. If you have guns you should complete a training course with a reputable group. My family kept the guns and the ammunition separate...but there was still a fatality. My parents never recovered emotionally and their marriage died along with the death of a their child.
    I had the NRA rifle training as a young adult and I have a healthy respect for firearms.

    Posted by usually post on other forums April 18, 10 09:31 AM
  1. Buy your ex a small digital combination lock box--Walmart has them for around $25. These can be opened in a few seconds, and are a good compromise between quick access and child safety--I've got one mounted to the wall in my bedroom. Even though I don't have children living here anymore, if they do visit I can merely lock the box.

    Although if I were in your ex's circumstances I would lock the gun when I wasn't carrying it (I have a carry license), statistically your child is not in particular danger. Virtually every case initially reported as an "accident" involving a child under 4 turns out to have some risk factor such as drug dealing, history of domestic violence or an unemployed boyfriend babysitting a child from a previous relationship. If he takes virtually any precautions, such as moving it out of reach when your child can walk, or keeping it without a round chambered, your child is in far more danger from stairs and toilets.

    Posted by Sevesteen April 18, 10 01:13 PM
  1. There are cheap ways to secure a gun so that it will not be a problem. I believe the Danvers police will give you gratis a device that strings down through the barrel and out through the action and is tamper proof enough so that it cannot be used "accidentally". Obviously keeping the ammunition separate from the firearm is taught at every gun safety course I have seen. All the above said, its dumb to store the gun the way he is storing it. Put it in a gun sock to protect it. and lock it in the safe. What he may be doing might be legal but is stupid.

    Posted by ShrNfr April 18, 10 03:19 PM
  1. "I learned that the first time I ever asked it: Responsible gun owners are only too happy to answer."

    I used to ask a similar question when my kids stayed over at anyone's home. If the answer was, "No.", I asked why not. I'd feel safer if your family could protect my children in case of home invasion, danger at a store or anywhere/anytime that you were in a situation where it was your duty to keep my kids safe.

    Posted by Chuck Baudeer June 18, 10 03:19 PM
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