Unless you happen to be a card-carrying member of the NRA, like Las Vegas Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, you may be surprised to find this Second Amendment-inspired Christmas card in your mailbox.
Fiore doesn’t just support Americans’ right to bear arms — she’s made a public statement of it by taking a family Christmas card photo with her family — adults and children included — holding weapons. Fiore, a lifetime member of the NRA and the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute and Second Amendment Sisters member, considers Second Amendment rights and responsible gun ownership some of her defining issues as a Republican state representative. Unsurprisingly, this hot-button photo hit the Internet like gasoline to a fire. Fiore’s pro-gun family pic immediately stirred up a Facebook debate after it was posted to her official page, with more than 6,000 shares and counting:
Of course, gun supporters and fellow NRA members love, love, love Fiore’s unique and provocative family Christmas card. They can’t get enough of it, as evidenced by many of the Facebook comments. But no matter where you stand on the great gun debate that isn’t likely to settle anytime soon, you can’t argue with the fact that Fiore’s Christmas card is controversial.
Just days after two major mass shootings that have rocked our nation, a politician posts a happy Christmas card, where family members are smiling with guns in hand, to social media. For the many Americans affected by mass shooting tragedies, this may come as a slap in the face.
Even worse, Fiore’s Christmas card appears to contradict the exact message it is trying to send.
Fiore stands on a platform of responsible gun ownership, explaining in the caption to her Facebook photo that, “We’re just your ordinary American family” and “It’s up to Americans to protect America.”
However, posing children with guns as props is the opposite of responsible gun ownership.
Like it or not, people are influenced by prominent figures in the media. Fiore said blatantly that she represents the average family who plans to use guns as their Second Amendment right to protect America.
But this is not how the average family should present guns to their kids. It would have been one thing to pose all the adults with any kind of weapon they desire, but front and center, we see an adorable little boy holding a handgun. Even for the sake of a sure-to-be-viral picture, it’s still not OK to send a young child (and the rest of America) mixed messages by letting him use a real weapon like a toy.
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No matter how you feel about guns, this is a basic principle that any person can agree on: Guns are not toys and should never be treated as such.
Within the realm of Second Amendment rights, it is possible to be a parent and a responsible gun owner — as long as guidelines like locking up guns, talking about weapons openly, storing ammunition separately and teaching kids what to do if they find a firearm are in place.
It’s this last point that can be the stickiest for parents who own guns. All children, especially those who live in a house with firearms, need to be taught to “stop” immediately when they see a gun left out. Teaching a kid to stop, not to touch and to tell a trustworthy adult what they have found could help to prevent, or at least minimize, the accidental shootings of children that have become an epidemic in the U.S.
Today, American kids are nine times more likely to die in a gun-related accident than kids in any other country in the developed world. If weapons are presented to kids as serious and not casual, we could prevent tragedies like the toddler who fatally shot himself after finding a gun in the car or even the 5-year-old who accidentally shot and killed his baby brother. These kinds of accidents aren’t a fluke — they are happening every day because kids have access to guns and haven’t been taught to not treat them as toys.
In light of these heartbreaking stories, it’s hard to take Fiore’s right-wing Christmas card with the cheeky tone it was intended. She may be a politician with a “right to bear arms” stance, but the execution of the card was poor at best. Letting kids hold guns as playthings in a family Christmas photo isn’t fun or funny. In fact, it undermines the foundation of responsible gun ownership that most gun owners support.