A pediatric study suggesting that young children — despite prior schooling in safety — will play with guns when found in unlocked drawers was called "half-baked" by gun rights advocates Monday.
In the study, conducted by Utah University pediatric physician Dr. Geoffrey Jackman, 64 Atlanta-area boys ages 8 to 12 were placed two at a time in a room with an unloaded gun hidden in a chest of drawers. According to the report, 48 boys found the gun, 30 boys handled it and 16 of the curious lads pulled the trigger.
While some observers quickly used the study to conclude that gun safety instruction alone does not work, National Rifle Association officials said the study was more or less concocted to defend the tough gun control lobby.
Responsible gun owners are encouraged to keep their guns safely away from children, they said, and as an association the NRA will continue to teach safety to parents and little ones despite studies that seek to make its efforts seem futile.
"Gun owners ought to be trained to safely use and store firearms so that they are never accessible to unauthorized persons," said NRA Spokesman Bill Powers. "The NRA for 130 years has been teaching parents and children to do that."
NRA Spokesman Andrew Arulanandam went further, saying "you can safely assume that the findings are artificial."
The study found that more than 90 percent of the boys who handled the gun or pulled the trigger had reported having some sort of prior gun safety instruction, whether it be an informal discussion with a parent or more formal training at school.
Nevertheless, Jackman said some of the more precocious test subjects "looked straight down the barrel," without knowing whether it had been loaded.
This led child psychologist Kevin Dwyer to call the result "extremely important," as the results suggested that telling kids that guns are dangerous just isn’t good enough.
"It means that we must have external control rather than education control, such as gun locks and reduced availability of firearms in situations where children can access them," said Dwyer, who was not involved in the study.
Two years ago, Congress passed a law that requires gun manufacturers to provide safe storage locks with every gun sold, said Powers. He added that 85 percent of U.S. gun makers had already been providing some sort of such safety devices.
"That’s a huge part of the equation," he noted. "This is a half-baked and cooked-up study. Now I can’t speak about the motivations of the people who baked it. My only advice to anyone concerned about this issue — firearms owners should sign up and take the firearms safety course we have been teaching for 130 years."
The NRA also sponsors an "Eddie Eagle" safety course in schools in order to educate children. Incidentally, Maryland’s Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening recently vetoed a bill that would have required gun safety instruction in the public schools there. He said the planned courses would encourage kids to play with guns.