A farewell to arms
Child safety, or rather the lack of it, clearly demonstrates the need for change.
On Jan. 19, a 5-year-old boy in Missouri found a loaded gun, went to his 9-month-old brother’s playpen and shot his sibling in the head, killing him.
Not even a month later, a 3-year-old in New Mexico took a loaded handgun from his mother’s purse and fired it, hitting his father in the lower back and his pregnant mother in the shoulder. Thankfully, both parents survived, and have been charged with child abuse for the incident.
The Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organization, also reports that 221 total accidental shootings have occurred this year, with victims of all ages.
The number of accidental shootings is far too high.
According to the New York Times, only 18 states have legislation related to the safe storage of firearms, and in most of those states, the child needs to use the weapon in a threatening manner, injure someone, or display it in public, for charges to be brought.
Safe storage legislation is not a big enough step in preventing these deaths. Ownership needs to be restricted, so that these weapons never end up in the homes of children to begin with.
Shortly before the start of 2015, a 2-year-old boy was at a Walmart in Idaho with his mother when he took her handgun out of her purse and it fired, killing her.
The Washington Post published a story last year, after a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed her shooting instructor in Arizona, stating that we simply do not know how many adults are unintentionally shot and killed by children every year.
But we do know how many children are shot and killed every year.
The FBI reported that 101 children under the age of 12 were killed in shootings in 2013, and this number does not include shootings ruled to be accidents.
In the same year, the CDC reported that 69 children under 14 were killed by accidental discharge of firearms.
A report released by Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy group made up of over 800 American mayors, as well as mothers and gun violence survivors, found a different number.
According to the organization, medical examiners sometimes categorize accidental deaths as homicides or suicides.
The group studied child gun deaths through 2013, and found 100 unintentional deaths in the country, significantly higher than the 69 found by the CDC.
A similar report was released by the New York Times, which argued that the official numbers on accidental gun deaths are then used by groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) to fight against legislation intended to improve safety.
American children under the age of 15 are nine times more likely to die by unintentional shootings than anywhere else in the developed world, according to Slate magazine.
A study from back in 2002 found that only car accidents and cancer kill more American children than firearms do.
The conclusion of that study was that gun deaths were especially prevalent in areas of the U.S. where those weapons were more common.
Safe storage legislation would provide an avenue for charging irresponsible parents with a crime after their child has already been into their collection of weapons, but we need a more preventative policy change.
Background checks are absolutely necessary in preventing many forms of gun violence, but a check would not reveal that a parent is more or less likely to leave one lying next to the bed, or hidden under the couch.
In that Idaho Walmart, the mother was carrying her handgun in an entirely legal fashion. Carrying concealed guns is legal in Idaho, with a licence.
The U.S. needs legislation that will take firearms of all kinds out of the reach of children. The number of children killed yearly purely by accident is entirely unacceptable.
Two high-profile accidental shootings occurred in the first 32 days of 2015, with another occurring two days before the start of the year, all involving children.
There needs to be a shift in how Americans think of these weapons, and how the government regulates who owns them.
No weapon should ever be in the reach of a toddler, but we continue to see cases where they are not only handled by children, but fired by them as well.
The safety of those children, of the 57 who have already been injured or killed this year, needs to come first.