From Krist Boardman:
The May 24 issue of USA TODAY featured a lead, front page article about the absolute tragedy of accidental gun violence in homes in the United States, violence which kills on the average of one child a week. But it’s not just the innocent children who die; their families and communities suffer terribly.
These accidents are preventable. Virtually all of these terrible incidents is the result of careless adults leaving loaded guns out somewhere in homes and cars where they are accessed by children and are inadvertently shot to death or where they unintentionally shoot another playmate or brother or sister.
The article, “Added Agony,” states that “children under age 12 die from gun accidents in the United States about once a week, on average. Almost every death begins with the same basic circumstances: an unsecured and loaded gun, a guardian’s lapse in attention. And each ends with the same basic questions: Who is to blame, and should the person be punished?”
Obviously someone is responsible for these unacceptable incidents. If not the owners of the guns, then who? But the USA article notes that prosecution and enforcement of these is very irregular. Some people go to jail for not securing the guns, while others do not. In either case the consequences are bad. The person who may go to jail could and frequently is the single mother of surviving children. Not only does the mother feel badly about the child who was killed, the surviving children lose their mother and may end up spending their younger years in foster care.
If there are no criminal penalties for not securing the guns that lead to these tragedies, justice is also not served. Granted that the loss of the child is a terrible punishment for a family member, a punishment they may never recover from. But the state is responsible for protecting the most vulnerable especially and to do nothing is to abrogate the state’s responsibility.
There is a solution and that is vigorous education on the responsibility to secure guns in the household so they are not accessible to children. The best solution is not to have a gun in the house where it could also be used in an incident of domestic violence, but if guns are kept in the house they must be kept securely away from children (and other irresponsible people–more on that later).
Statistically speaking, one child killed from accidental gun death per week does not sound like a lot in a country our size, but…….52 children killed a year from this method is 52 too many.
Of course, a lot more people than that die in the United States from gun violence. It could be as many as 50,000 people a year. As a nurse working in the central Maryland prison hospital I see many, many victims of gun violence. These are the survivors who are not dead, and while there are a lot of them in the prison hospital there are also a lot of other surviving gunshot victims I do not see who are in regular hospitals. The costs of treating and rehabilitating these people have to be considerable.
We are hampered by the inability to collect sufficient data in order to design a strategy to counteract these trends. The Congress has consistently blocked efforts to study gun violence as a public health crisis as proposed by a group from Johns Hopkins University.
There are other huge gaps that represent our country’s inadequate response to gun violence. One of the Trump Administration moves after the new president came in was to cancel federal regulations pertaining to making guns less accessible to people with psychiatric problems, as if we needed more mental patients with automatic weapons such as what happened with Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Do Trump Administration officials really want to put more automatic weapons in the hands of mental patients by cancelling these regulations?
Recently I wrote to Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler that much could be learned from the Australian example where gun violence was cut significantly. Gahler’s response was no response. He believes in guns enough to sponsor a gun raffle as part of his campaign to be elected. But for children’s guns safety he should be running a public relations campaign to encourage better prevention in the homes where gun violence is most likely to occur.
Just one less child killed from this accidental violence in the home would be worth the effort.