Bug spray. Prescription medicines. Household cleaners. Power tools. Those little packets of dishwashing detergent. Lawnmowers. Kitchen knives. Don’t think we’re making light of the obvious; there’s a reason why we use child-proof containers, put cleaning supplies out of reach of the littlest and don’t let children cut the grass if they aren’t strong enough to safely use the mower.
Guns undoubtedly fall into that category.
So much of this nation’s eternal debate over smart gun regulations is based on adults’ legal access to guns. Call it the Second Amendment guarantee. But, as a story in Sunday’s New York Times detailed, a not-so-hidden chapter of this debate involves children who die in gun-related accidents that stem from improper storage in the home.
Children, particularly the youngest, are inherently curious. Despite parental warnings, they’ll touch hot stoves. And time after time, in state after state, American children have died from preventable shootings — and lawmakers cowering to the National Rifle Association and other lobbyists have overwhelmingly refused to put teeth into gun-ownership laws that would make improper storage a crime.
Because of what The Times calls “idiosyncrasies” in how these deaths are classified in different states, and because a large number of states do not consider death certificate information a matter of public record, the newspaper could not examine data from all 50 states. However, by using information from the eight states that do release those records, The Times discovered two major points: (a.) accidental shootings happened roughly twice as often as records indicate; and (b.) NRA lobbyists who claim that most fatal accidents involving children are caused by adults are wrong; a majority of these cases involve a child finding a gun and shooting either himself or another child.
The Times wrote, “Even with a proper count, intentional shooting deaths of children — including gang shootings and murder-suicides by family members — far exceed accidental gun deaths. But accidents, more than the other firearm-related deaths, come with endless hypotheticals about what could have been done differently.”
That is the crux of the matter.
Even in the NRA’s fictitious perfect world — in which America loosens gun-control regulations — the improper and unsafe storage of guns is inexcusable in terms of children. The Times cited example after example of children as young as 3 finding loaded guns underneath pillows, behind television sets, underneath couches, on tables and in unlocked drawers. And, yet, 32 states do not have safe-storage regulations.
In reality, we do not equate firearms with lawnmowers or dishwashing detergent, though danger through unsupervised use is obvious. But we do see The Times’ report as a clarion call for lawmakers across the United States to do what’s right and seek stiff penalties for those whose unstored weapons lead to a child’s death.