There's a nonsense rhyme about a mother who gives her daughter permission to go for a swim - as long as she doesn't get near the water.

Likewise, some members of the Senate believe an estimated 65 million Americans should only have firearms in the home for self-defense if those firearms can't be used for self-defense because they are unloaded, locked up or locked away.Worse, in the name of safety, they want to force firearms owners to follow a one-size-fits-all trigger lock mandate that not only can't guarantee safety but may even create a hazard in some homes.

To understand why this is a bad idea, you have to go beyond the rhetoric and get right down to the practical question of how trigger locks work.

Manufacturers of trigger locks warn consumers not to use the devices on a loaded firearm. Even with some trigger locks engaged, a loaded gun can be discharged - for example, if it is knocked to the floor or poked by a curious child.

That doesn't mean firearm owners should ignore safety concerns. On the contrary, the hidden danger of some trigger locks may be overcome by educating those who might come in contact with the firearm. However, for some, a smarter safety choice might be a gun safe. For others - such as an adult living alone in a high-crime area - accident prevention may be a lower priority than speedy access to self-defense.

The bottom line is that trigger locks don't guarantee safety in all settings and may actually frustrate the protection of human life in some. Any choice of safety devices should allow consideration of the devices' limits and the specific circumstances in which they will be used.

That being the case, who should make the choice: The firearm owner or a federal bureaucrat? The parent or the politician?

I don't believe most gun owners and parents need a federal law to force them to take safety precautions around children. Indeed, statistics bear this out. Since 1930, while the U.S. population has doubled and gun ownership has quadrupled, fatal accidents with firearms have dropped 62 percent.

In the past year alone, they dropped 10 percent without any safety mandates. A full 46 percent of the accidents claiming the lives of children involve motor vehicles, while firearms are involved in fewer than 3 percent - a number still well below the number of child deaths resulting from drowning, fire, or suffocation.

Instead of an empty, unworkable, and even potentially dangerous mandate to use trigger locks on all guns, I offered the Senate an alternative that will make more safety devices available to consumers and provide grants to encourage safety education, which is proved to reduce firearm accidents and misuse.

Those who voted for my amendment agree children must be protected from gun violence. However, they believe parents and firearm owners should have the flexibility to choose the most effective and appropriate form of protection. A safety mandate from Washington, D.C., is nonsense.