How guns kill children: Chapter 4

Many states penalize adults for endangering children. Just having a physical fight with your spouse, when children are present, can constitute child abuse.

So howcome adults who leave guns where children can get them usually go scot free? They’re held responsible only if they’re otherwise certified as “bad” people. Take the couple in Lake County, Fla, that was charged with “unsafe storage of a firearm” when their 4-year-old picked up a loaded pistol and shot off one of his fingers. The man was a convicted felon and had drugs in the house, so there was good reason to hold them. But I’ve never seen an “unsafe storage” charge against “good” Florida parents whose kids accidentally killed other kids with loaded guns they found in the house. ‘Taint done.

My roundup of childhood tragedies caused by “law-abiding, responsible” gun owners continues:

1. In Fort Smith, Ark., two teens were playing a zombie game. The 16-year-old took a pistol from his mother’s drawer and fired it at the 15-year-old, hitting him in the torso. The boy will recover. When talking to the press, Mom advises parents to lock up their guns and not leave a bullet in the chamber. Thanks, Mom.

2. In Killeen, Tex., a 2-year-old girl was shot by a handgun. A 3-year-old was in the house at the time. That’s all the information, in this early report.

3. In San Diego, a 10-year old boy died of a gunshot wound to the cheek. He and a friend were playing with a 9mm semi-automatic handgun.

4. In Benton, La., a child bumped into a door, knocking over a loaded .22, which discharged a bullet into another child, 3 years old. that’s the story, anyway. The wounded child’s condition is unknown.

5. In Prescott, Ariz., a dad and his 4-year-old were visiting a friend. The child picked up a loaded gun that was lying around and fired it, killing his father. As you know, little kids always point guns at people, because that’s what they see on TV.

6. In Ohio, a 12-year-old shot and killed his 9-year-old half brother with a .44 revolver, then killed himself. Was the killing an accident while playing with the gun? Or did the older boy fire on pupose? Either way, two kids are dead because a loaded pistol was floating around the house, and with the grownups out. As usual, the grownups think of themselves as responsible gun owners.

7. In Hopkinsville, Ky., a four-year-old boy shot and killed his six-year-old sister. Grandpa was cleaning his pistol and left a bullet in the chamber. The boy picked up the gun and fired, just like a TV cartoon hero: “Bang, bang, you’re dead.”

8. Some good news here, from my point of view. A Minnesota parent was found guilty of manslaugher, after his 4-year-old found a loaded gun and accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old brother. In a search of the house, police found several other loaded an unsecured guns.

I suppose that this father’s conviction will make it impossible for him to buy guns through regular dealers. But not to worry: He can buy them at gun shows where there’s no background check.

It’s terrible for a dad to lose a child this way, and terrible for his family if he goes to prison. But it was also terrible to expose toddlers to loaded guns. Writing about his case for Slate, Justin Peters suggested that the dad be required to tape public service announcements about how his son died. Maybe some of the careless people who see the ad will pay attention.

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1 comment
Joseph Zurenda // 07/19/2013 at 6:43 pm

Thank you for your continued interest and public stance on this issue. It has been nothing short of frustrating to try to get the attention of state and federal legislators to come up with stronger gun control laws. The inertia of Congress to act for the greater good has never left citizens such as myself with such a feeling of hopelessness on this and many other issues of the day.

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