Yesterday there was a tragic accidental shooting in a small town near here. A 14 year old girl was visiting the apartment where a 12 year old boy lived, and she found a gun in a closet. As she checked to see if the gun was unloaded, it fired, striking the boy in the head and killing him.
Our news out in this part of the country is pretty moderate, and respectful of the circumstances. There is always still an element of humanly compassion, and our reporters are cautious in their balance between sensitively portraying a news story and portraying the story so it would be interesting.
The blog of a local reporter is no exception, and she posted the story, and then asked for comments addressing the following:
*Should this young girl face charges?
*If not, who should be held responsible? The owner of the gun?
*What can be done to educate our kids about gun safety?
*How do you feel about the free gun locks? Would you use one?
The majority of those who responded seemed concerned for the girl. This was, after all, an accident, and she will replay those terrible moments in her mind throughout the rest of her life.
A handful of respondents wanted to place blame on the parents, who “left a loaded gun where children could find it.” While this seems to be an accurate assessment, we won’t ever know if the girl actually loaded it herself, or if the gun wasn’t chambered until she played with it. We can assume, however, that the parents had never experienced any danger with their son in regard to the firearm. he doesn’t seem to have midhandled it previously … so how could they forsee the danger?
If you attempt to work your way back into the story a little further, we know the boy and the girl had known each other for a long time, and that theitr families were friends. It would be reasonable too, then, to assume she’d never previously mishandled the gun.
I attempted to respond, but (as usual?) my comments were too long for the allotted space, so I’ve reprinted them here:
As a gun owner with children myself, I have to look at this situation the same way as i look at our own:
1 – Kids are curious about things. Guns are no exception. If they’re curious, they’re going to get into it – that’s a given.
2 – I own guns for personal (extends to my family) protection. If an intruder is threatening my family (and the police can’t be everywhere at once), how likely am i to scare away an intruder who sees a gun lock hanging from my weapon?
Do i want to risk my kids playing with a gun and hurting themselves or others? No.
Do i want to risk my family being harmed by an intruder because i can’t access my weapon? No.
A firearms instructor i spoke to recently said the best way to make your kids safe around guns is to expose them to guns until their curiosity is satiated. Our boy goes to the range with us, he now helps clean the guns, and he helps clean up leftover brass. The guns are not that mysterious and exciting to him now, and he no longer jumps at the opportunity to go shooting.
We also don’t allow other children *in* our home. We don’t want our own kids to be out of sight or in situations where something bad could happen to them, so they aren’t allowed to go into a friend’s house, and we extend the same courtesy to our children’s friends’ parents.
Is education and the attempt to keep other kids away enough? No. All our guns are stored and transported unloaded. All of my firearms – but one – are locked in cases/with trigger locks, and kept in a locked room. The one which is not is my primary self-defense weapon, a semi-automatic handgun. Having a clip allows me to store the ammunition and weapon separately, but with easy access for me (who knows where each of the two pieces is hidden) to load the gun quickly, if needed.
Part of the reason for accidental shootings is unfamiliarity and fascination with weapons. This is a result of our “anti gun but pro violent games/movies” society. Kids grow up assuming they “know” about guns, and when they come across one that wasn’t stored safely, accidents can happen.
I am sad for the family of the boy and for this girl. Accidents should not be prosecuted. She is going to live with the horror of this moment for the rest of her life. The owner of the gun is going to likewise. Neither intended to commit a crime, and it serves no purpose to charge either with one (other than politics or revenge). If there was a lesson to be learned, it unfortunately has been learned as thoroughly as it ever could be.
I heard the other day, that until 1969, most public high schools taught gun safety, and there were sporting events and shooting clubs. I know when I was in Junior High here in Idaho, the schools offered Hunters education courses, which also taught safety. Boy Scouts was another place where we learned firearms safety.
I think the best way to prevent these accidents is to educate children on the realities of firearms. They kick. They make loud noises. Things are destroyed or die. They have to be taken care of. There are a lot of rules involved. Perhaps the biggest reality is that nearly everything they show on TV or in Film (and CERTAINLY video games) is dangerous, false, and irresponsible. That probably comes from the screenwriters living in two of the most restrictive anti-firearms states in the country: New York and California.
Do we want their ignorance to teach our children?