How guns kill children: Chapter 3

Not surprisingly, I’ve had some kickback on these gun  posts. “Accidents happen,” the argument goes. “That’s no reason to take guns away from legal and resposible owners.”

I have never advocated taking guns away en masse – that’s a straw man that gun advocates throw up, to buffer their case against any legislation on gun safety. I do favor background checks, gun safety locks in homes with children under 18, and — yes — removing guns from owners whose kids have found them loaded, and fired.

When a 2-year-old shoots himself with a parent’s pistol, it’s an “accident” only in the sense that a death by drunken driving is an “accident.” We charge drunken drivers who kill, but we merely feel sorry for parents whose toddlers handle loaded guns and die. I do feel sorry for them, but that’s not enough. Irresponsible gun owners — by definition, people who leave children alone with loaded guns — don’t deserve to keep firearms. That seems to me to be a minimal standard of public safety.

Almost 35 years ago, Mothers Against Drunk Driving began a campaign against the public, good-humored tolerance of drunks. At the time, drunks were sorta funny, in movies and cartoons. Little attention was paid to the mayhem they created on the roads. Now, we see groups of young people “designating” a driver who won’t drink at the party. Acceptable alchohol levels in the blood of drivers has gone down, if a driver is stopped. Public pressure changed habits, with the support of laws.

We need a movement like MADD to change public attitudes toward firearms. It’s not merely regrettable to leave them lying around in a condition to kill, it’s negligent. Not acceptable, in custom or law.

Today, we aren’t anywhere close to protecting the children of people who own guns. Not enough kids have died, in a public way, where people can see. I’m keeping a list of the cases I come across, and hope you’ll pass it on. How many more deaths do you think it will take for a movement against child endangerment to spring up? More than 1,000? More than 5,000?

Before my latest report on kids, this just in, from Aurora, Colo., the town where James Holmes free-fired on a movie audience last year. A school employee, who works a second job as an armed security guard, was giving a male student a ride home. When the employee tried to put his pistol into the glove compartment it “went off,” seriously wounding the student. I’m sure this employee would have been considered a “responsible” gun owner. But, he, he didn’t know the gun was loaded!

Now for the latest in childhood damage and death. These 10 stories have come to my attention in the past six weeks. In all cases, adults were nearby but not paying attention when the child fired. Some reports say the gun just “went off.” But guns don’t just go off. Someone has to pull the trigger. You can see my previous gun posts here.

1. In Idaho, a mom left an infant and a 3-year-old in the car for a moment while she went back to the house to pick something up. She had a loaded pistol in the car. The toddler found it and shot the infant in the face. The infant is recovering.

2. In Burkesville, Ky., a 5-year-old who got a “youth” .22 rifle for his fourth birthday, accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old sister. The rifle was kept in a corner of a room. The parents thought it was empty, but it had a shell in it.

3. In Yuma, Ariz., a 3-year-old shot himself in the face and died, while playing with a loaded pistol he found in his grandmother’s backpack. Grandma was charged with reckless homicide, probably because she is also alleged to be a meth dealer. Howcome that other people whose small children kill themselves with guns aren’t charged the way this grandma was? Is it OK to endanger children as long as you’re not dealing in meth?

4. In Oakland Park, Fla., a boy, 15, and his sister, 6, were reportedly playing hide-and-seek. A loaded gun entered the play. The girl was shot in the chest and died.

5. In Corsicana, Tex., a 2-year-old picked up his father’s pistol while his father was out of the room. The gun “went off” and the toddler died.

6. In Denton, Tex, two boys, 5 and 8, were playing in a room. The older boy found a .22, pointed it at the younger one and shot him in the head. The 5-year-old is in critical condition. Other family members were in the house at the time.

7. In Tampa, Fla., a group of children were playing with a gun (an adult was in the house). An 11-year-old tried to get the gun away from them. A 4-year-old pulled the trigger, killing the older boy.

8. In Asheboro, N.C., a 2-year-old boy found an loaded gun in his parents’ bedroom and put it in his mouth. He’s expected to survive his wound, but it’s not yet known whether permanent damage was done. All the family was home at the time.

9. In LeFlore County, Okla., 15-year-old Saylor Martine died of a gunshot to her head. She and her 12-year-old sister were handling their mother’s loaded pistol. They put it down on a counter and it “went off.” Mom was out of the room at the time. The gun was said to be defective. Who knows? (Update: There’s an investigation underway)

10. In Cherokee County, Tex., a 2-year-old died after shooting himself in the face with a loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol in his great-grandparents house.



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Bob // 06/01/2013 at 10:11 pm

Please keep the stories coming. They are a wake-up call to all but the intentionally deaf.

Joseph Zurenda // 06/04/2013 at 5:23 pm

Thank you for your sensible awareness and advocacy for gun control. How is it though that our knuckleheads in the Senate and the House cannot find the common sense and decency to promote not only the curtailment of guns but also the liability of so called accidents that you allude to ? It is a disgrace and shame that our political system favors such special interests.

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