Last month I covered a news story in which a child unintentionally shot and killed himself while he was in the car with his mother and sibling. Since then, I learned of some additional information that, at the time, was unknown. And as you may have guessed, it has to do with marijuana and guns.
4-Year-Old Accidentally Kills Himself:
You can read the entire post about the tragic death of a 4-year-old child.
Information was that the father Carlos Peres drove to the store, accompanied by his wife Ashlynne and their two children. Carlos parked the vehicle, exited, and went inside the store. Unfortunately, he left his loaded handgun inside the car.
We still don't know where the gun was, just that he left it inside the vehicle. Ashlynne and the children waited inside the car. At some point, unbeknownst to Ashlynne, the 4-year-old accessed the gun and discharged it. He shot himself and died from the injury.
Police arrested both parents.
I wrote the original post to highlight the importance of safe storage procedures and our responsibilities as gun owners.
My co-worker J.P. said he recognized the location of the incident from the photo I included in the post. He previously worked for an armored car service that operated in the area where the tragedy took place.
J.P. said it looked like the incident occurred in the parking lot of a marijuana dispensary.
I did some digging. I found a couple of news reports that confirmed the family trip was to the pot shop, and Carlos was inside the dispensary when his son killed himself.
We shouldn't jump to the conclusion that either parent was high at the time. However, we should not dismiss this fact as irrelevant. Smoking pot, just like using painkillers or drinking alcohol, has both immediate, as well as short and long-term effects on our behavior and brain chemistry.
According to the National Institute on Health, marijuana has the following short-term effects: altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors), altered sense of time, changes in mood, impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, impaired memory, hallucinations (when taken in high doses), delusions (when taken in high doses), and psychosis (risk is highest with regular use of high potency marijuana).
And chronic marijuana use is tied to temporary hallucinations, temporary paranoia, worsening symptoms in patients with schizophrenia—a severe mental disorder with symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, and disorganized thinking. NIH Website Source
One Substance over Another:
As responsible gun owners, we should consider what we do with anything that can affect our judgment. Attempting to justify one by saying something else is worse is unwise.
For example, many people say marijuana isn't as harmful as alcohol. When they smoke weed, they just feel calm and lazy, but drunks want to fight. This is clearly a generalization that is not true for everyone. Instead, it is just a way to justify something bad by saying something else is worse.
Consider this, in 15 states; there is no codified prohibition for alcohol consumption and firearm possession. This means you can consume alcohol and possess a firearm. However, most of us recognize this as reckless behavior that could result in severe injury or death. Therefore, most (not all) people will refrain from handling their guns while drinking alcohol.
But what about the next day? Ever have a hangover? Has your alcohol consumption the night before led to you doing something dumb in the morning? It makes sense that if we can't think clearly, we are at a greater risk of making a mistake. What if that mistake was to forget to secure your gun safe when you took your EDC out. What if it is just sloppy handling of the handgun as you get ready to leave the house? These errors could have catastrophic and irreversible consequences.
But what about weed?
Ability to Problem Solve and Make Decisions:
Some argue that as long as someone isn't smoking weed and carrying a gun simultaneously, it shouldn't matter? I understand that argument but consider this. At what point after smoking marijuana does your discernment come back?
You may have a hangover, as mentioned above, but you also may not recognize that your decision-making skills still are impaired at the moment.
If marijuana affects our problem-solving ability and can cause an altered state of time, etc., we may think we are clear-minded but actually not.
This is evident drunks get in a vehicle and think they are okay to drive but are obviously not. Or perhaps this contributed to Carlos carelessly leaving his loaded gun in the vehicle where his kids could get it.
For this reason, I choose not to consume anything that would affect my ability to be of sober mind. I always want my mind sharp so I may make quick, rational decisions. Not just in the short term, but in the long term as well.
Strategies For Gun Owners:
Not everyone will agree with me and that is fine. I mention my choice and reason only as one method.
If you need to use painkillers or marijuana as a medical treatment, consider giving a sober person authority to evaluate your mental state. If we take medication appropriately, we should not lose touch with reality.
However, sometimes things like lack of sleep, other drugs interactions, or some combination of alcohol, pills, or medication can cause unexpected effects.
For example, I have had several surgeries and took painkillers for a few days after. I locked up my firearms at these times, and I didn't carry my gun until I had been off them for several days straight. I also asked my wife, who knows my baseline, for feedback on my mental state.
If you need to take medication for long-term pain management, you may consider using prescription medication that does not cause psychoactive side effects. Products like CBD oil have shown to be effective for specific conditions and does not cause an impaired mental state.
You should also refrain from carrying your firearm until you have been taking the medication for some time and have an understanding of how it affects you at the prescribed dosage.
I am not condoning the government taking away someone's Second Amendment right if they smoke marijuana, drink a beer or take a painkiller.
At the same time, we may think that what we choose to do in our own home doesn't affect anyone else. That isn't always the case. A drunk driver who ends up killing a family likely didn't start the night off thinking their decision to drink alcohol would lead to them killing someone. Our actions always have an impact on others.
When we are gun owners, we should consider that we operate with a lower margin for error. We need to be more aware of our actions. A slip of judgment with the firearm may have permanent results for us, children, or others.
It's my opinion that it doesn't matter if a law prohibiting alcohol, marijuana, etc., use and gun possession exists or not. There are plenty of unprofitable things that no law prohibits.
My opinion is that it's just not wise to give up control over the tool that is most critical to self-preservation, our brain.
Make wise, thoughtful choices on what you choose to do while armed as well as how you store your firearms. Here is a guide to help choose an appropriate storage solution for your individual needs.
If you are interested in sharing firearm safety with others or want to dive deeper into being safe with firearms, consider this free Gun Safety Course.