Dead kids and guns

From the intro of a must-read NYT piece on the far, far too many children that die from accidental gun deaths (just another sad consequence of our gun-loving culture):

The .45-caliber pistol that killed Lucas Heagren, 3, on Memorial Day last year at his Ohio home had been temporarily hidden under the couch by his father.  But Lucas found it and shot himself through the right eye.“It’s bad,” his mother told the 911 dispatcher. “It’s really bad.”

A few days later in Georgia, Cassie Culpepper, 11, was riding in the back of a pickup with her 12-year-old brother and two other children. Her brother started playing with a pistol his father had lent him to scare coyotes. Believing he had removed all the bullets, he pointed the pistol at his sister and squeezed the trigger. It fired, and blood poured from Cassie’s mouth.

Just a few weeks earlier, in Houston, a group of youths found a Glock pistol in an apartment closet while searching for snack money. A 15-year-old boy was handling the gun when it went off. Alex Whitfield, who had just turned 11, was struck. A relative found the bullet in his ashes from the funeral home.

Cases like these are among the most gut-wrenching of gun deaths. Children shot accidentally — usually by other children — are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.

They die in the households of police officers and drug dealers, in broken homes and close-knit families, on rural farms and in city apartments. Some adults whose guns were used had tried to store them safely; others were grossly negligent. Still others pulled the trigger themselves, accidentally fracturing their own families while cleaning a pistol or hunting.

And there are far more of these innocent victims than official records show.

As Justin Peters has argued persuasively in Slate, so long as we keep treating this foreseeable and preventable events as “accidents” without holding any adults legally accountable we can expect this horrifying litany to continue.   Oh, and there’s this:

The National Rifle Association cited the lower official numbers this year in a fact sheet opposing “safe storage” laws, saying children were more likely to be killed by falls, poisoning or environmental factors — an incorrect assertion if the actual number of accidental firearm deaths is significantly higher.

In all, fewer than 20 states have enacted laws to hold adults criminally liable if they fail to store guns safely, enabling children to access them.

NRA in short: other things kill kids more than guns (based on questionable statistics) so why worry about kids being killed with guns.  What a breathtakingly morally bankrupt position.  Of course, I would expect nothing less from a breathtakingly morally bankrupt organization.  Love this quote from the Times article (from the mother of a boy shot by a friend):

“There are no accidents,” Ms. Sandoval said. “There are simply irresponsible, stubborn, cowardly adults unwilling to stand up against the gun lobby and those who support it.”

The NRA says we just need to “educate” and warn our kids enough.  Apparently, despite their love of guns, they NRA is somehow entirely ignorant of the magnetic appeal of guns to young boys:

As part of Dr. Kellermann’s study, researchers watched through a one-way mirror as pairs of boys ages 8 to 12 were left alone in an examination room at a clinic in Atlanta. Unknown to the children, an inoperative .38-caliber handgun was concealed in a cabinet drawer.

Playing and exploring over the next 15 minutes, one boy after another — three-quarters of the 64 children — found the gun. Two-thirds handled it, and one-third actually pulled the trigger. Just one child went to tell an adult about the gun, and he was teased by his peers for it. More than 90 percent of the boys said they had had some gun safety instruction.
But, alas:
As a solution, many behavioral researchers advocate greater emphasis on child-proofing firearms, along with safe-storage laws. But requiring, or even encouraging, efforts to introduce “smart gun” technology remains unpopular with the gun lobby, which has worked to undermine such research and attempts to regulate firearms as a dangerous consumer product.
All in all, a depressing and sobering story.  So many kids lives absolutely needlessly lost simply because their parents (or other adults) love their guns too much and the law does not force them to take reasonable steps to protect children.  That loaded gun in the nightstand is so much more likely to kill a child you know than to scare off a criminal breaking in.

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: