After multiple Southwest Florida children have been arrested and found with guns, many are wondering how, for instance, Harns Marsh Middle School students had access to weapons in their own rooms, or how two East Lee County High School students arrested last week were able to take a loaded gun to school in a backpack.
Experts tell WINK News that, almost 10 times out of 10 in similar cases, the guns are already in their homes; they’re either taken from a parent or another family member in that house. They insist everyone in a household needs to elevate their personal responsibility when it comes to keeping firearms out of the wrong hands. Sometimes, in rarer cases, kids are trading, buying or freely getting a gun from a friend.
WINK News safety and security specialist Rich Kolko says whoever owns that gun has a responsibility to keep it safe and to keep it away from people that shouldn’t have access to it.
“You find a lot of adults just put a gun up, you know, high up in the attic or in the closet, thinking, ‘Oh, the kids aren’t going to find it,’ but anybody with kids knows darn well that kids have a pretty good way of finding things that are going on in the house,” Kolko said.
You need to lock the gun away securely. Another safety measure: Keep the ammunition away from the gun when it’s in the home. You could also get gun locks or an entire gun locker.
People around Southwest Florida seem to agree that parents and guardians have a big responsibility to keep weapons out of the hands of younger family members.
“I think that in these homes, these weapons and other things are made accessible to them, and they’re not being well enough protected,” said Alyssa Ford, who works in Fort Myers. “So they have the ability to take them into school and show up and, you know, cause violence there when, like, that’s not what should be happening. If there are going to be violent weapons in the home, then I need to be protected so that kids can’t get ahold of them and bring them out in public.”
It has still never been confirmed where the children involved in the Harns Marsh or East Lee County school incidents got those weapons. When asked if stricter gun regulations would make any difference in scenarios like these, Kolko said you can implement the strictest laws you want—if legal gun owners store the weapons in their homes, regulating them there is a different story.