'Gun Safety Is an Important Element'
From schools, let's turn to the safety of guns that are kept at home. Tessa Gray asks, "Should parents who don't have guns in their homes demand to know which of their children's friends are gun owners?"
Look, Tessa, that's a judgment for every parent to make. For example, as a parent raising my children, I wanted to know, when they were younger, when they were going to do an overnight at someone's home. When they were in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th grade, I wanted to know if they had a swimming pool, whether or not it was locked or there was a gate. That's not an unreasonable thing for me to ask. When my kids were 14, 15, and 16 at the time when kids start experimenting, I liked to know if they were having a party, whether or not the parents locked the liquor cabinet. That's just me.
I don't think it's irrational for you to ask whether or not there are guns in the home and how they're stored. For example, in my home, I have five grandchildren. They're around all the time. I have two shotguns that are locked in the safe. There's a gun case that is metal, and there's a combination. I could get to it really quickly if I thought my home was being invaded, to try to protect myself, but I keep the ammunition and the guns in that case. I don't think it's irrational for you to ask whether or not, if there are guns in the home, are they under lock and key or are they in a place where children don't have access to it. You read every day about accidental shootings; kids don't mean to do. I think that parents who have children at home, I think they should have gun safety classes or education, so you know whether there's a bullet in the chamber or how to be sure that the gun is not loaded.
I remember my dad, my dad was a hunter -- I am not a hunter -- my dad was a hunter and he always had rifles. I remember the first time he took me out in a field, and we were going to go bird hunting. We ended up not for reasons that are too complicated, but he had to go back to work. I remember him taking a shotgun and we were in a field and there was an old three-rail fence in this field. And he took the shotgun and he said, "I want you to see something, Joey," and he blew, with one shot of the 12-gauge shotgun, blew the rail of the boarded fence apart. He just blew it apart because he wanted me to understand the power, the power, of what I had in my hands.
You teach your kids how to safely operate a car. You teach them how to safely deal with something that could do damage to someone else accidentally. Or to themselves. And so I think it makes sense. I think gun safety is an important element of what we're talking about here. We're not legislating that. We're not legislating that. But again, I think the more people become aware of what's going on, the more that there's sort of the imperative to make sure that children who are curious do not have access to these weapons, and/or if they have access, if you've trained them, they've been trained, so they competently can handle -- If they're going out to bird hunt with you or target shoot, they should be trained -- and I think most are, by the way.
Look, there is a really healthy gun culture in this country. The state I come from, the and family I come from, guns were part of my father's ethic. My father was a responsible man, and so we were taught, we were taught, you don't play with a gun, you don't handle it, you don't pick up a gun even when you know it's loaded and point . We weren't even allowed, when we were playing cops and robbers, to point a cowboy, a cap gun at someone. You just don't do that. So there's certain basic things I think any family that owns a weapon, owns a gun, should be training their children about so they don't accidentally get themselves in trouble.
You mentioned not legislating around that. I have a question from Missy Carson Smith. She writes that she's the sister of a boy killed 27 years ago in a school-related shooting. Her own daughter went to her first play date and weeks later, she found out about an unlocked gun in the home. She asks, "What are legislators willing to do to present the message that all parents should be conversing about the issue of gun accessibility at the household level?"
Missy, first of all, I'm sorry for what you've been through. Look, it's a complicated decision. A Supreme Court decision relating to gun safety. There was a District of Columbia ordinance that said that you had to keep your firearm, when you were in your home, you had to keep it locked up and unloaded and locked -- I'm not sure unloaded, but you had to keep it locked away. And the Supreme Court ruled that you cannot require someone to have their weapon in a place where it was not accessible for their self-defense. And so they said that you could not in all circumstances or your home [have a law that says] you cannot have a weapon that is loaded in your home.
That still doesn't mean you can't be responsible, in making sure if it is loaded and it's accessible, that only you and not your children. It still does not say, it's unclear whether or not when you're not in your home, should you be required to have it under lock and key, so if your kids are in and out while you're at work or you're out of the house. So it's still an untested area, but again I think the vast majority of the American people are serious and responsible, and I think the vast overwhelming majority of gun owners are incredibly responsible.
In fact, keeping the weapon out of the reach of children or strangers is just common sense. And I think you're going to see some initiatives come along that are going to try to find out the limits of that D.C. case. I think there is room that people will be able to legislate in the District of Columbia and other places to increase the prospects that a loaded weapon is not within the reach of a stranger or family member who is not competent to use it.
I'd like to close with a question about what role, if any, do you think violent video games as well as TV and movies play in spurring gun violence? There was a report out just this morning that video games may have played some sort of role for Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter.
Well there is a lot of speculation about that, and that's why one of the things we're pushing very hard that I didn't mention to you is lifting the ban on the ability of the CDC -- the Centers for Disease Control -- and NIH, National Institute of Health, to be able to do studies on gun violence. The NRA and others have actually pushed legislation, and attached what they call riders to appropriations bills saying no agency of the federal government can actually study gun violence at all. One of the things that I think we should be studying is the issue of whether or not there is any empirical data to suggest that access to some extremely violent video games to young people actually impacts on their behavior.
There are a couple studies from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry indicates that it may impact on behavior, but there is no hard data. That's why one of the things the President and I are suggesting is that there be well-funded studies by really first-rate people and determining whether or not there is any association between violent video, violent films, and behavior, particularly on young people. There's not enough hard data to make that judgment now, but we have to lift the restrictions on the government to be able to study those issues.
Watch the full video of the Parents town hall with Vice President Biden about gun safety and gun violence.
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