2006-05-11 / Community

Police say arm your home, don't arm yourself

By Daniel Wolowicz camarillo@theacorn.com

The National Rifle Association reports that 50 percent of homes now have guns and that gun ownership in America is at an all-time high. Weapons makers continue to sell 4.5 million new guns every year.

With those numbers come some startling statistics.

A 1993 article published in the New England Journal of Medicine and considered one of the most definitive studies on gun control reported that people who have guns in their home were 2.7 times more likely to be victims of a homicide than those who don't.

Conversely, an earlier study- believed by gun supporters to be one of the most comprehensive on the topic-reports that states with less restrictive gun control laws often see an overall drop in violent crime.

Regardless of the ongoing debate, local crime prevention officers say it's better to arm your home than yourself.

Senior Dep. Larry Logan of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department said that gun ownership requires a great deal of responsibility-both in handling and storing the weapon. Oftentimes, Logan said, homeowners grab a gun in the middle of the night after a strange noise in the house awakens them. It's in those "half-asleep" moments that many accidents occur.

"There've been cases where people who live in the home have come home unexpectedly or they've gotten up in the middle of the night and made some noise and other people in the home didn't know it was them," Logan said. "The next thing they see is somebody walking through the door, they think it's an intruder, and 'boom.'"

Logan said it's essential that a gun owner remains especially cautious with a firearm.

"You have to be thoroughly familiar with the (gun) and how to operate it under adverse circumstances," he said.

He added that gun owners should clean guns and keep them in good working order. Guns must have proper locks to prevent another family member, especially a child, from mishandling the gun. Gun locks- available at most gun, hardware and sporting goods stores-are free at police stations throughout the county.

"Gun locks are available to anyone who comes down to our station and asks for one," said Senior Dep. Robert Maclean with the Camarillo Police Department. Maclean said decisions about gun ownership are up to individuals, but proper training with the weapon is a must.

Not only is it important to know how to handle a gun, but gun owners must also be willing to use it.

"You cannot expect to shoot someone in the knee," Logan said. "You have to aim for the middle of the body. . . . And if you can't do that, you're putting yourself in a whole lot of trouble because that means someone can take it away from you."

For those reasons, police say, good home security helps guarantee a gun will only be necessary in the most dire situation.

Both Logan and Maclean said burglars target homes with unlocked doors and windows. To that end, the deputies stress the importance of locking up the house before going to bed.

"Every night somebody is walking around testing doors and windows," Logan said.

Home alarms and motion-sensor exterior lighting outside the house are excellent deterrents for home burglars. Logan said electronic and hardware stores also sell lighting kits that allow homeowners to turn on lights throughout the house with a switch at the bedside.

Also, it's a good idea to replace hollow-core bedroom doors with solid-core doors and to install quality locks with strike plates attached by 2 to 3-inch wood screws.

Because sliding windows and doors can be lifted out of their frames and easily removed, drill two staggered holes in the top part of the door frame. Install two sheet metal screws, allowing each to stick out just enough so that the door can slide open.

Logan said homeowners should know the orientation of their home so they can give responding officers their specific location inside the house.

To help police find your home, make your address easy to read.

Homeowners should keep bushes and shrubbery around the home-they give burglars a place to hide-trimmed to a minimum.

Finally, police say it's important to have a plan in the event of a home robbery.

"You have to plan for these things before they happen," Logan said. "If you think about what's going to happen before it does, you'll be much better off."

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