I haven’t finished reading the cover story, Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll, from yesterday’s New York Times.
The article is heartbreaking. No details are spared in the recounting of dozens of scenarios of children of all ages accidentally shooting themselves, or their infant siblings, or their friends, with guns they’ve found unattended and, for reasons beyond comprehension, loaded with bullets.
The article explains how the annual rates of accidental gun deaths involving children are inaccurate due to discrepancies in official reporting. A New York Times review revealed the rate of accidental shootings to be twice the amount indicated by records.
In a concerted effort to establish negligence, many death reports list the cause of death as homicide, rather than accident. Even cases where children as young as three found an unsecured gun and accidentally shot themselves can be called homicide.
These numbers are important if you consider that fewer than 20 U.S. states have “safe storage” laws holding adults liable for allowing children access to guns.
Keep reading for more on the issue.
I haven’t been following the recent gun law debates so I’m baffled as to why anyone would oppose safe storage laws. But it explains a recent political cartoon I saw depicting an infant crawling out of a vault, with the copy, “Due to the abundance of guns, all children should be kept in safes.”
“The rifle association’s lobbying arm recently posted on its Web site a claim that adult criminals who mishandle firearms — as opposed to law-abiding gun owners — are responsible for most fatal accidents involving children. But The Times’s review found that a vast majority of cases revolved around children’s access to firearms, with the shooting either self-inflicted or done by another child.”
The article makes it clear that child gun deaths know no racial, economic or geographical boundaries. They happen everywhere to people and families from all walks of life.
This is the part that scares me: The uncontrollable variable that exists in the form of other people’s guns. Parents may be hyper-vigilant at home but they can’t control what happens in other homes their children may visit.
To be honest, it has never once occurred to me to ask a parent of one of my child’s friends if they have guns in the house. While we don’t own any guns, we live in a part of the country where hunting is a way of life. Along with this hunting culture comes the assumption of gun safety education.
I’m quite sure my children have been in homes with guns in them. Since we’re talking hunting rifles, rather than not personal protection, I’ve naively assumed these guns would never, ever be stored in any readily accessible place. Yet, now I’m remembering that hunting rifle, or was it a BB gun, in my brother’s closet when I was a kid. I had no interest in touching it. According to the article, boys represent the majority of perpetrators and victims of accidental gun deaths.
Reading this article makes me second guess my blind faith that all parents, and gun makers, are doing everything they can to prevent accidental gun deaths of children.
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