Deborah Buzby-Cope is an educated gun owner. She knows to keep a trigger lock on her two handguns when she's not firing them at the local range, and knows to wear protection for her hearing and eyesight when she's shooting.

Cope is also the mayor of Bass River Township and president of the New Jersey Conference of Mayors. That puts her in a good place to advance a favorite cause: gun safety classes for elementary schoolchildren.

People can come to grief a lot of ways with guns, and one especially unfortunate way is when children happen up an unsecured weapon, handle it perhaps like they've seen on television, and sometimes seriously injure or kill themselves or others.

Cope believes that young children should be taught how to react, what to do if they should happen upon a gun. In South Jersey especially, where there is a long tradition of hunting with firearms, that can happen.

She wants the state Legislature to pass a law requiring elementary schools to provide children with a 15-minute lesson in this kind of gun safety. We think that's a great idea, as long as teachers focus on safety and give the lessons without their personal sentiments about firearms ownership and such.

Cope would also like to see a similar State Police program reinstated that was cut for lack of funding. That's good too.

We also share Cope's support for a campaign this month by Police Chief Michael Caputo, of Tuckerton, to provide free gun locks to anyone who wants one.

Since March 1, Caputo has distributed more than 300 free gun locks from the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Project Child Safe.

These kinds of efforts can prevent the terrible tragedy of a child being the victim or being involved in an accidental shooting.

We don't think another state proposal, however, would be very effective. A bill in the Legislature would increase prison time and fines for someone whose gun that should have been secured was accessed by a minor and involved in injury or death.

Frankly, if someone isn't motivated by such potential tragedy, more potential punishment isn't likely to improve their behavior.