Guns and 5-year olds

Perhaps you heard the story of the 5-year old who accidentally shot his 2-year old sister to death last week with his gun.  I loved Paul Waldman’s response:

Let’s be clear about one thing: The horrifying story of Caroline Sparks’ death tells us, if nothing else, that certain corners of gun culture in America are f-ing nuts. Anyone who has known a five-year-old understands that giving one of them a functioning firearm is utterly insane. Don’t give me any line about instilling proper respect for guns in children; at an age when a child doesn’t have the dexterity to tie his own shoes, and lacks the impulse control to conclude that putting Krazy Glue on his lips might not be such a great idea, he shouldn’t be allowed within 20 feet of a gun, supervised or not. Stories like this one may not be common, but they aren’t all that unusual either. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, in 2010, 62 American children aged 14 and under were killed by accidental discharge of firearms; 25 of those were under age 5. Two hundred and nineteen kids 14 and younger were intentionally murdered with guns, including 54 younger than 5. So Caroline Sparks wasn’t the first, and she won’t be the last.

Today’s Times ran a story about the backlash in the Kentucky town against all these damn liberals coming down hard on them:

The death has convulsed this rural community of 1,800 in south-central Kentucky, where everyone seems to know the extended Sparks family, which is now riven by grief. But as mourners gathered for Caroline’s funeral on Saturday, there were equally strong emotions directed at the outside world, which has been quick to pass judgment on the parents and a way of life in which many see nothing unusual about introducing children to firearms while they are still in kindergarten…

The county coroner, Gary White, said Kristian’s gun, a .22-caliber single-shot Crickett rifle designed for children and sold in pink and blue, had been stored in a corner, and his parents did not realize it was loaded.

I’m sorry, designing actual working guns for 5-year olds is nuts.  Instead, there’s a lot of sentiment like this:

April Anderson, a cashier, said that she, too, owned a gun at age 5. “We went deer hunting,” she said. “I had a .22. You have to teach them at an early age [emphasis mine],” she noted, adding that she and her husband own more than 20 guns, but that they keep them secure. “Our guns are put up,” she said.

Ummm, no, you don’t actually.  I’m sure if you wait until they have some basic common sense (12?  13?) it will still be okay.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Guns and 5-year olds

  1. Mike from Canada says:

    To show just how ludicrously stupid giving a gun to a five year old is, just turn the question onto other subjects.

    Should you give a five year old your credit card and access to an online shopping center to teach him personal finance?
    Should you give a five year old complete unsupervised access to a computer and the internet to teach him or her internet safety?
    Should you give a five year old drain cleaner to play with, to teach him about household cleaner safety?
    Should you give a five year old a real car to teach him safety? Maybe a mini Cooper, it’s more child sized, but still able to go 90 mph.
    Should you give a five year old a full set of chefs knifes to play with to teach him safety?

    Although the rifle is child sized, and supposedly difficult to cock, the rifle is actually MORE powerful then a .22 caliber adult sized pistol. It is, quite obviously a deadly weapon. You do not give deadly weapons to young children.

    The fact that it may be the custom for lots of parents to allow extremely young children to have rifles doesn’t make it right. It only makes them a bunch of idiots who should have their children taken away. A child should never be left unsupervised with a firearm.

    Because they are children. That is why in most places children cannot be tried as an adult. Because they do not have the intellectual knowledge or emotional self control of an adult. Many people don’t until well into their mid to late twenties. NONE do at five. It doesn’t matter how good your child is, almost any 5 year old will do something dangerous or extremely stupid. It is the parents job to remove as much that can kill or maim them from their vicinity so when they do something terribly stupid, it doesn’t kill them or someone else.

    This was not just an accident. An accident is something that cannot be foreseen. Any reasonable adult could have foreseen a five year old with a rifle is a dangerous situation. By the way, that is the test for negligent homicide in most areas. What a reasonable adult would (not) do.

    Leaving an unloaded rifle with a child is no better. 22 caliber bullets are left around many homes like candy. I found six at four different locations while out walking at various times and these are much harder to get in Canada. My guess is these people had a box of 22 shells just lying around in a drawer somewhere that the child had access to. If they don’t, one of his friends parents or relatives probably do.

    The level of stupidity of the parents, and those who are defending them is simply mind boggling to me.

    Studies:

    Click to access KeepingKidsSafe.pdf


    show that children who get very young training with firearms are just as likely to point a found real gun at someone and pull the trigger.

    Why is that so hard to understand? Oh, and by the way, just what does “putting them up” mean? Have you ever seen a five year old climb or solve problems to get at something they want?

    This just made me SO angry, and angrier still that many don’t see the problem with their actions and lack thereof.

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