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Thursday, October 27, 2016

After a rural Kentucky family suffered an unspeakable gun tragedy late last month, that sad story, unfortunately, became new fuel for the scorching debate over gun control. When news broke that 5-year-old Kristian Sparks had shot his 2-year-old sister with a rifle he had been given as a gift, opposing factions latched on to either defend rural America’s gun culture or to denounce it.

Having grown up in Alabama, steeped in the Deep South’s gun culture, I feel nothing but sympathy for the Sparks family. One child is dead; another will be scarred for life by his horrible mistake. And Caroline Sparks is just one of many: The careless handling of guns sends Americans to their graves with mind-numbing frequency.

Indeed, in the days since she died, other children have been wounded or killed in accidental shootings. On May 1, 3-year-old Darrien Nez shot himself dead with his grandmother’s handgun in Yuma, AZ. On May 4, a 13-year-old boy in Oakland Park, FL accidentally shot his 6-year-old sister in the chest, injuring her critically.

That, by the way, is just a partial list. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an average of eight Americans under the age of 20 are killed by firearms every day. While urban children are more likely to be homicide victims, Brady says, rural children are more likely to be suicides or victims of accidental shootings.

But the mindless political punches and counterpunches, finger-pointing and blame-assessing do little to curb the death toll. If concerned grownups really want to save children from accidental gun discharges, we ought to separate those gun accidents from the broader debate over gun control, which is hopelessly mired in partisan madness.

Instead, let’s discuss this as a child-safety issue. There are plenty of precedents in American cultural history for focusing on child safety even if it impinges on the convenience of adults. One of the best examples is the decades-long crusade to make child-safety seats a familiar part of child care.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy to bring some common-sense child-safety measures — legally enforceable measures — to routine gun use. There are many factions who are eager to keep any discussion of guns locked into a doctrinaire set of talking points. And, of course, the most ferocious and fanatical factions of the gun lobby — notably the National Rifle Association — will have no use for even the mildest reforms aimed at stemming the carnage.

  • docb

    Perhaps a better deterrent would be to make it a ‘child abuse’ issue! We have had 5 such incidents in less that 2 weeks…That speaks to more than ‘child safety’ but to negligence!

  • sigrid28

    In many localities, it’s already a punishable form of child abuse or neglect to leave firearms where children can use them unsupervised. In Chicago, where I taught school for many years, the Department of Children and Family Services works alongside law enforcement to identify unsafe environments and remove children from them whenever necessary. Teachers and others who work with children–doctors and school nurses, for example–are required to report suspected forms of child abuse and neglect and DCFS must follow-up on these reports. Although DCFS case workers are spread too thin and temporary placements for children taken out of homes are not perfect, such a system is a place to start in approaching this child safety issue in ways that keep the NRA out of it altogether, while at the same time saving children’s lives.

  • You can have my un when you pry it from the cold dead fingers of my six year old! NRA forever!

  • Siegfried Heydrich

    Hmph. What you don’t understand is the NRA’s position that the Tree of Liberty must often be nourished by the blood of innocent children. After all, dead kids are merely part of the price we have to pay for FREEDOMZZ!

  • FAIRFAX, VA—National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre said Monday that somewhere around 1,000 kids would have to die in a school shooting in order for the organization to reconsider their longstanding opposition to gun control.

    “Yeah, that’s probably the only way we’d reassess much of anything at this point: 1,000 dead kids, shot up pretty good, lying face down in the school auditorium or something like that,” LaPierre said, noting that anything less than 1,000 dead kids would not be enough for the NRA to stop urging Congress to pass pro-gun legislation. “I mean, that’s just a ballpark number, but I imagine seeing 1,000 or so body bags being wheeled out of a school and a whole town of crying parents would probably make us reflect on our values for at least a little bit.”
    “So yeah, more or less 1,000 dead kids,” LaPierre added. “Something around there. And teachers don’t count.”

    In his 21st year leading the right-wing lobbying group, LaPierre reiterated that “350 or 470 dead kids or some low number like that” would have no impact on the NRA’s belief that there should be more firearms on college campuses or that concealed carry laws should be more lax.

    In order to reconsider their position on the Brady Bill, this amount of kids multiplied by 200 would have to be shot to death in school.

    In addition, LaPierre added that while 800 dead kids in one school shooting would “certainly be a little closer to the number we’re talking about here,” ultimately that amount would, according to the NRA, constitute more of a society issue than a gun issue.

    “For us to come anywhere close to reassessing our beliefs, it’s gotta be one of those deals where a ton of kids get their heads blown off in school and there is one of those big, town-wide memorial services where they read off all the names of all the dead kids and you feel like, wow, that has to be somewhere around 1,000 names,” said LaPierre, adding that seeing pictures of all the dead kids in front of the “pastor or whoever is doing the eulogies or whatever” might be a sobering enough visual for the NRA to reconsider whether it should be harder, not easier, to acquire firearms. “And I think the shooter would also have to use around 30 different types of guns in the shooting in order for us to rethink what the Founding Fathers intended when they wrote the Second Amendment.”

    The former member of the American Conservative Union’s board of directors further qualified his statement, adding that the NRA’s response to 1,000 or so kids being mowed down by a school shooter would more than likely vary based on the age of the students, the school’s demographics, and the extenuating circumstances of the situation as a whole.

    Though he didn’t offer a reason why, LaPierre said 1,000 dead 14-year-olds is “not even close to the same thing” as 1,000 dead 18-year-olds.

    “If we’re talking about one of those big high schools with 4,000 students then 1,000 dead ones aren’t really even a drop in the bucket, you know?” LaPierre said, explaining that if an uzi-carrying 16-year-old only kills 45 percent of a school’s total population, the NRA would still be more inclined to blame the shooting on poor parenting, and wouldn’t consider soft gun laws to be part of the problem. “Oh, and of course, if it’s a giant state university or something like that then I’d imagine we’d need to see numbers closer to 8,000 dead kids before we really even begin to talk about potentially having a conversation about changing our philosophy.”
    “And for argument’s sake, let’s say it’s a situation where 999 people die and the 1,000th person is just the school shooter blowing his brains out,” LaPierre continued. “Do you honestly expect me to take that seriously? To me, that seems more like an isolated incident that shouldn’t really impact everyone’s rights, you know?”

    While some believed that LaPierre’s remarks finally indicated a slight loosening of the NRA’s pro-gun stance, LaPierre was forced to clarify his comments after his membership criticized him for introducing the idea that a playground full of bullet-riddled dead kids might cause the NRA to reconsider their position on gun control if even for a second.

    “At the end of the day, I want to make it very clear that the NRA is in absolutely no rush to change anything,” LaPierre later said in a written statement. “One thousand dead kids would have very little impact on us. Now if 50,000 kids died in a school shooting that might be a different story. Something around 50,000 to 80,000 dead kids. You know what, forget that. Maybe something closer to 250,000. Yeah, 250,000 dead kids.”

    • dtgraham

      You had me there at first. The crazy thing is that it’s gotten to the point where I believed for a moment that Wayne might have actually said that. Funny stuff Zheet.

  • robertblair3174

    These kinds of things aren’t “Gun use by children” They’re pure, and simple parental negligence. As a kid, my family had firearms of all kinds around. We were all taught the basics of firearm safety, and enjoyed hunting, and other shooting sports on a regular basis. Not ONCE in all those years can I recall a
    LOADED gun EVER being brought in to the house. Even the nominal “Perimeter defense” weapon (an M-1 Carbine w/30 round mag) was kept unloaded, albeit, with the magazine readily accessable on a table next to the door. (The only ammunition not kept in locked storage, when not in use) Keeping loaded guns where children can find them is BEGGING for something to happen, and the “Adults” in the home should be prosecuted for negligent homicide, when these incidents happen

  • ralphkr

    Wow! you folks are all going to have conniption fits and want to jail my parents (both deceased of natural causes) when you hear my childhood experiences. From the time I was 5 or 6 my father would mention that he had a taste for pheasant so I would go get an old single shot .22 caliber hand gun out of the drawer, load it, go out in the fields by myself, and bring home a pheasant. Needless to say, I was considered a fair shot by the time I became a LEO. I must admit that I wasn’t any good with a long gun until the army trained me how to shoot right handed (I am still left handed with hand guns) and I became a sniper. NO, I never shot anything other than game when I was a child.

    • Barbara Morgan

      How long ago was that ralphkr? When I was growing up in the 50’s many young boys went hunting to put meat on the table while Dad worked in the fields or in a factory but back then it was the parents that taught their kids gun safety and what would happen if that rifle or shotgun wasn’t unload when it came in the house. There were times when some young hunters ate standind up. It was also a time when it was it was a common sight to see pick ups with gun racks in the rear window with at least one rifle or more in it and windows left down when the driver went into visit or shop. Times have changed and it is rare to see any pickups with guns in the rack unless the owner or owners are going on a hunting trip. If we want there to be a next generation then some sensable enforcable gun laws need to be put in place and organzations like the NRA need to fade away and have gun organizations who are only pushing safety not making people parnoid about the government going to take your gun away in order to raise gun and ammo sales for weapon and ammo manufacturers to become richer so the the NRA heads can get higher salary.

      • ralphkr

        That was over 70 years ago, Barbara (the avatar is me a few years ago). This was back in the days when there was no such thing as needing hunting license or season when hunting on our own farm since the game was consider our property just like our cattle and chickens. Since my weapon was a single shot it would only have a spent cartridge in it when I came home (I vaguely recall that .22 cartridges were worth a bit of money). I must have been trained in fire arm safety but I don’t remember it but imagine that it was the same as vehicle and tool safety and was just part of being taught how to do something.

  • bcarreiro

    “so called” responsible gun owners seem to have a problem with protecting their own children as well as others.

  • If any of these kids had been given the EDDIE EAGLE GUN SAFETY SKILLS CLASS they would more than likely be alive today… that is why the NRA offers it for free… do any of you have a clue what the program teaches? STOP..DO NOT TOUCH.. TELL AN can not leave the gun as the untold secret item dad hides in his bedside drawer…they have to be taught what to do …all of these incidents were adult negligence but then so are most car accidents that kill kids and adults..going to ban them too because there are so many unqualified people driving? make it illegal for parents to raise their own kids unless it suits you? what happens when you make a mistake and they take your kids? Is that going to be alright with any of you? Do you not believe a parent suffers enough if their child is killed or kills another is enough punishment for them? get off your soap boxes and use some common sense, peope die everyday and there is no stopping that no matter how we all try. You can not just ban guns because there are some deaths involved or we would be forced to all live in a bubble. gun deaths since 2002 have gone down 39% in a recent justice department report., not even Obama and Bloomberg can screw those facts and numbers