Law and Disorder

Control yourself: The law can’t do it for you

By A.J. Wagner

When I was 12 years old, my dad got me a gun. He taught me how to shoot, clean and treat a gun in a safe and careful manner. I kept the gun on the back of a shelf in a closet in my parents’ bedroom. You couldn’t reach it without a chair. That seemed safe enough.

After I went to college, I received word that one of my relatives got angry and pulled the gun on my brother. It was never fired, but it was a lesson. I had the gun destroyed.

The debate over gun safety is an important one. We need to recognize the Second Amendment right to have a gun, but we also need to find ways to reduce the violence bought about by weapons that are so easily accessible and so instantly lethal.

The proposals put forth by President Barack Obama are helpful, especially when addressing the problem of mass killings such as Columbine or Newtown, but most gun violence isn’t directed toward large groups. Most guns are used in the home where they are kept.

Emory University, 20 years ago, studied injuries involving guns kept in homes in Memphis, Seattle and Galveston. The findings showed that a gun used at home was used in self-defense less than five percent of the time. Such a gun was used for assaults or homicides 30 percent of the time, 17 percent of shots fired were accidental, and almost half the time the firearm was used in attempted or successful suicides. Other studies show that the majority of gun assaults and homicides are against family members or significant others.

No gun safety strategy can be complete without addressing the problems of suicide, domestic violence and accidents.


Of the 30,470 firearm-related deaths in the United States in 2010, 19,392 (63.6 percent) were suicide deaths. Strict background checks and 30-day waiting periods have reduced suicides in Australia. The same should be done here. But suicide prevention can be done by all of us. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (ASFP) sites these as warning signs of suicide:

-Unrelenting low mood




-Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension


-Sleep problems

-Increased alcohol and/or other drug use

-Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks

-Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die

-Making a plan

-Giving away prized possessions

-Sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm

-Obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications

-Unexpected rage or anger

To prevent suicides ASFP suggests you take it seriously, be willing to listen and help seek professional help. When a friend or family member is threatening, talking about or making plans for suicide:

-Do not leave the person alone.

-Remove from the vicinity any firearms, drugs or sharp objects that could be used for suicide.

-Take the person to an emergency room or walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital.

-If a psychiatric facility is unavailable, go to your nearest hospital or clinic.

-If the above options are unavailable, call 911 or the Dayton Suicide Prevention Center 24 hour confidential line at 937.229.7777 or 800.320.HELP.


The New York Times reports that females living with a gun in the home were 2.7 times more likely to be murdered than females with no gun at home. The Times also reports that in domestic violence situations, the risk of homicide for women increased eightfold when the abuser had access to firearms.

If there has been a threat or an incident of domestic violence in your home, get rid of the guns, the ammunition or both and contact the Artemis Center for Alternatives to Domestic Violence 24-hour confidential line at 222.SAFE (7233) (TT: 461.7910). (I serve on their Board of Trustees.)


In 2007, more than 3,000 children were injured in gun accidents. In 2010, more than 2,800 children and teens were killed by guns. The keys to reducing such horrific numbers:

-Keep your guns locked.

-Keep your guns unloaded.

-Keep your ammunition locked.

-Keep your ammunition in a separate area from your gun.

The leadership on ending gun violence will not just come from Washington. The real leadership comes in our local communities and our homes. We must support programs like the Suicide Prevention Center and Artemis Center for Alternatives to Domestic Violence. We must sponsor campaigns to teach parents how to store their guns and how to rid their house of guns if danger comes from within. Recognizing that gun violence is more prevalent in homes of the impoverished, we must also recognize the need to focus on poverty, jobs and education.

The city has very little constitutional power to legislate gun control, but it is within the power of city leaders, with the help of the entire community, to teach the lessons outlined above.

Disclaimer: The content herein is for entertainment and information only. Do not use this as a legal consultation. Every situation has different nuances that can affect the outcome and laws change without notice. If you’re in a situation that calls for legal advice, get a lawyer. You represent yourself at your own risk. The author, the Dayton City Paper and its affiliates shall have no liability stemming from your use of the information contained herein. 

A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at

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A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at

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