It doesn’t matter whether you’re for or against gun control; no one can deny that firearms are designed to kill. If they’re for hunting, the intent is to kill an animal. If they’re for protection, they are to possibly kill an intruder if necessary.

Another undeniable fact: Too many children have access to weapons, and too often that access has tragic results.

JAMA Pediatrics magazine this month reported that more than 4,500 children 17 or younger were killed or wounded with guns last year. That number includes crimes and suicides, but many — perhaps a majority — of those deaths are accidental.

The report estimated that those casualties could be reduced by a third if more people simply locked up their guns.

Whether a troubled teen takes a parent’s rifle and shoots up a school or a toddler finds a handgun and accidentally shoots himself or a family member, the loss of life is just as tragic, and just as indefensible.

Last week, one year after one of the nation’s worst school shootings occurred outside of Houston, The Associated Press reported that the Texas Legislature shot down a bill that would have required that guns be secured with locking mechanisms or be locked in cabinets. Even Gov. Greg Abbott, who is hardly a liberal, supported the measure.

Opponents insisted that unlocking a gun would take valuable time if an intruder was in the house. However, we hear of many more cases of accidental shootings that of cases in which a firearm was used in self-defense.

It’s hard to know if such a law would even be effective. It likely wouldn’t come into play until a gun was used improperly, and only compound the pain of a parent whose child was killed, or killed another person, because a lethal weapon wasn’t stored safely.

And if the risk of losing a loved one isn’t enough to inspire a gun owner to store it properly, would a state law be any more motivation?

Our state isn’t alone. According to the Los Angeles Times, only one state, Massachusetts, has a law requiring that all firearms be locked or stored safely. Ten states have less stringent laws, such as requiring the purchase of a gun lock at the same time one buys a weapon. Complaints about such laws hardly make sense; anyone who pay hundreds of dollars for a firearm should be able to shell out another few bucks for a gun lock.

Of course, getting the locks doesn’t mean they will be used.

But they should. And many cities, including several in the Rio Grande Valley, make it easy for people to secure their weapons by offering gun locks at no charge. The only requirement in some cities is proof of residency.

Any gun owner who does not have a way to store it safely is encouraged to contact your local police department and ask if they offer free gun locks. If it doesn’t, head to any local department or sporting goods store and pick one up for a few dollars.

Owners likely will find that they’re so simple to use, any fears of not being able to access the weapon during an emergency are probably unfounded.

A firearm can be secured at little or no expense. It certainly pales in comparison to the cost of losing a loved one due to its improper use.