If America Is Serious About Gun Safety Adults Must Be Punished When Children Kill

Courtesy of the City of Marietta (Flickr CC0)

It is such a tragic and embarrassing reality that statistics are not recorded, and the details seldom become national news. It is estimated that between 250 and 350 children kill another child, an adult, or themselves each year after gaining access to a loaded weapon. No government agencies keep statistics. The only reports come from local news.

Once again, there are facts that every American should know.

Prior to 1976, the NRA was primarily a gun safety organization, not a lobby representing gun manufacturers and gun sellers. One of its most popular publications was a pamphlet offering instructions about gun safety in the home.

Their suggestions were simple and foolproof. If a gun owner found it necessary to keep guns inside the home, a couple of simple steps would prevent a disaster. First, unload the weapon. Second, place the weapon and the ammunition in separate areas which were secure, preventing access by small children.

Today, the NRA instructs its members to keep their toys, designed to kill other human beings, loaded at all times and accessible if needed.

On Thursday afternoon, in Jefferson County, Arkansas, a five-year-old child gained access to a loaded handgun and shot his eight-year-old brother, killing him. The mother was taking a nap.

Courtesy of Lars Plougmann (Flickr CC0)

Okay, I refuse to offer any excuses or any statements by law enforcement that this was nothing more than a “tragic accident.” The reality is that a crime was committed not by the child but by his mother. She should be charged with negligent homicide at the very least.

I assume she is distraught, but I don’t feel any pity for her. Not only is a young boy dead, and everything he might have accomplished in his life will never be a reality, the five-year-old will require decades of psychiatric care as he learns the reality of the death of his brother.

This was completely preventable. Pure carelessness by an adult resulted in irrevocable pain and sorrow for many.

I have written about this situation far too many times, and every one of them should never have happened. Not once has the gun owner been fairly punished for the seriousness of their crime.

Let me ask you a simple question, which has only one answer. Why would anyone keep a loaded gun in any part of their home where children were present? Is that gun more important than the life of a child? Until some law enforcement agency and one judge who cares about justice punishes a negligent parent, family member, or family friend who leaves a loaded weapon that could be accessed by a child, this will never end.

With great sadness comes great anger, and nothing makes me angrier than this story or any other which is similar. Any tragedy which is totally preventable with the use of common sense cannot be forgiven or forgotten.

I have watched this country become a nation of lawlessness. There are excuses for everything. I won’t bore you with the many reasons but look at the reality of those who are never punished for their crimes and others who are punished to the fullest extent of the law because they are poor or a minority.

You do the work, I’m tired of doing it for you.

Op-ed by James Turnage, Novelist


People: 5-Year-Old Boy Shoots Brother, 8, Dead in Arkansas While Mother Sleeps: ‘Loss for Words;’ by Amethyst Tate
ABC News 7: ‘Tragic incident’: 5-year-old toddler shoots, kills 8-year-old brother in Jefferson County; by Jack A. Webb
Everytown: Every year, hundreds of children in the US gain access to firearms and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. This is #NotAnAccident.

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of The City of Marietta’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Lars Plougmann’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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