Hate may not be a family value, but I have to admit that there are still a few things that I hate. Here are the two that top my list: handguns and unsafe sex. I hate them because they destroy lives, and the victims could fill Yankee Stadium many times over. Not just those killed by bullets and AIDS, but also those who are maimed for life or paralyzed, or prematurely pregnant, or forced to mother kids while still a teenager. And so, if it were up to me, I’d wave my magic wand and make handguns and unsafe sex disappear forever.

But I’m not stupid. I know that I’d have better luck trying to outlaw cheeseburgers, chili-dogs and chocolate bars. So instead of pining away for the fantasy world of a gun-free America or teenagers (and others) to suddenly have an attack of good judgment, I’m interested in saving lives in the here and now. And I’ve got an old solution to a new problem, one guaranteed to upset my friends on the left and my not-so-friendly friends on the right.

It’s called education.

Let’s start with guns. Because handguns, like halitosis and athletes foot, will always be with us, I think that the public schools should start teaching gun safety to kids. A lot of my friends on the left bury their heads in the sand on this one, but we need to teach kids that guns are dangerous and need to be handled safely.

We need to teach kids to respect guns as very dangerous things and that Hollywood is lying to them when it depicts gunshot wounds as neat, bloodless or noble. In the movies, the hero is always shot in the arm, and is wrapped in bandages that actually promote sex appeal. The reality – amputations, spinal-cord paralysis, brain damage and ruined, traumatized lives – somehow never make it into the script.

Kids need to be taught what to do when they find a gun and how to safely unload, lock and store firearms. If you’re going to show kids the mangled bodies of drunk drivers killed in accidents, or the rotted lungs of dead cigarette smokers, then I say show them pictures of what a 9 mm round actually does to human flesh at point-blank range. If ex-smokers, ex-drug abusers and ex-alcoholics can make the school rounds talking about the experience, then I say that victims of gunshot wounds – especially paraplegics, amputees and others similarly maimed – should also go on tour and discuss their experience.

I hope that one day handguns will be illegal. But until then, I’m not willing to see more child victims pile up for use in anti-gun ads. Let’s start educating our children to the realities – not lecturing parents who are going to buy guns anyway. Because it’s about saving lives, not making political points.

The exact same principle applies to the problem of unsafe sex – more education. Teenage impulses (and a lot of adult ones too) aren’t going to diminish next year any more than they have in the last 5,000 years. As much as I love abstinence, I also hate early, unsafe sex. But hey, I also love free lunches, no rent and large gifts of cash – but I’m never going to get them either and that’s why I save for my retirement.

The point being, that we have to deal with things as they are. And for kids, where we are isn’t very encouraging. AIDS and STDs continue to spread like poisonous crabgrass. Out-of-wedlock births and teenage pregnancy flirt with their all-time highs. And what do parents do? We argue about condoms and sex education, while at home we fail to teach the abstinence we claim to adore. Meanwhile our children get sick, get pregnant, get abortions and get poorer and poorer.

No, I’m not talking about courses that teach, “if it feels good, do it,” anymore than gun safety courses should teach sniper skills. I just want kids to get the facts – the facts that they’re not getting at home, at school, on television or at the movies.

Maybe it just comes down to using the schools to teach kids that life isn’t really like the movies – stars who aren’t really having sex on screen don’t have to worry about depicting safe sex and heroes facing guns loaded with blanks don’t have to worry about shock, bleeding to death or having a piece of their spinal cord shot away.

No, life isn’t like a movie. But if you listen to the scripts read by the left and the right on these issues, you’d think that some people would like to be in one.

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