Swans Commentary » swans.com April 22, 2013  



Child's [Gun] Play


by Jan Baughman





(Swans - April 22, 2013)   Four months after 20 children and 6 employees were gunned down at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, the US Senate begrudgingly voted in favor of merely debating various new bills that would tighten gun control laws through broader background checks, crackdowns on arms trafficking, and increased penalties for illegal purchases. Yet despite popular support for reform, with 90% of Americans favoring expanded background checks, and individual states enacting similar legislation, the Senate -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- lacked the courage or the convictions to enact the will of its constituents, voting instead to appease the NRA, defeating expanded background checks by a vote of 54-46 and essentially slamming the door on the recent opening to a change in gun laws. Gabrielle Giffords best summed up their unconscionable betrayal of the public's well being:

Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents -- who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.

In addition to its campaign to incite fear in gun owners, warning that President Obama wants to disarm them and strip them of their "Second Amendment rights," the NRA argues that background checks would not have prevented the Newtown massacre since the perpetrator used his mother's weapons. Their solution instead is to install armed guards in every school -- even arming teachers (I'm reminded of when a priest won the right to carry a concealed weapon under his robe to protect his parish...). They released the following rebuttal to the proposed bills:

Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime and will not keep our kids safe in schools. While the overwhelming rejection of President Obama and Mayor Bloomberg's "universal" background check agenda is a positive development, we have a broken mental health system that is not going to be fixed with more background checks at gun shows. The sad truth is that no background check would have prevented the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson. We need a serious and meaningful solution that addresses crime in cities like Chicago, addresses mental health deficiencies, while at the same time protecting the rights of those of us who are not a danger to anyone. President Obama should be as committed to dealing with the gang problem that is tormenting honest people in his hometown as he is to blaming law-abiding gun owners for the acts of psychopathic murderers.

Unfortunately, law-abiding gun owners are part of the problem.

According to a Centers for Disease Control report (PDF), in 2010, homicide by firearms was the 4th leading cause of injury death among 5-to-9-year-olds and 10-to-14-year-olds, and suicide by firearm was the 5th leading cause of death among the latter. Homicide by firearms was the 9th leading cause of injury death among 1-to-4-year-olds.

Children, innocent children, should not have to die by gunfire. Yet there are numerous shootings of and by family members resulting from unsafe gun handling that don't gain the national attention that the Newtown massacre did -- their individual tragedies do not evoke the visceral reaction that 20 children killed at once by a single deranged killer does. The numbers keep adding up, while the argument for rampant gun ownership continues to be defended.

New Jersey police: 6-year-old dies a day after being shot -- by a 4-year-old

A 6-year-old New Jersey boy has died after being shot in the head [with a .22 caliber rifle] by a 4-year-old playmate as their parents stood in the yard nearby, a local police chief said. (April 2013)

4-year old fatally shoots wife of Tenn. sheriff's deputy accidentally

Josephine Fanning, 47, and the boy walked into a bedroom where her husband Daniel was showing his personal gun collection to a relative in Lebanon. Unaware that the child entered, the sheriff's deputy left a loaded pistol unattended on the bed. (April 2013)

2-year-old shoots Carroll County mom

A 2-year-old Carroll County boy accidentally shot his mother with a handgun he found in their bedroom, authorities said. The woman was in fair condition at a Memphis hospital on Tuesday. (April 2013)

Father accidentally shoots, kills 10-month-old son in front of family

A 10-month-old boy was shot and killed by his father Thursday in an apparent accident at a Nashville, Tenn., hotel, local media reported. (March 2013)

Father cleaning shotgun shoots 10-year-old son in the head in N.C.

A father who was cleaning his shotgun accidentally shot his 10-year-old son to death at their home in North Carolina. (March 2013)

NC 4-year-old shoots self with gun at mom's home

Police say a 4-year-old girl is back at home after shooting herself with a gun she found in the bedroom of her mother's townhome in downtown Charlotte. (February 2013)

4-year-old kills himself with dad's stolen gun

A 4-year-old Houston boy fatally shot himself with his father's stolen handgun Sunday morning, police say. (February 2013)

Father arrested after 5-year-old Bronx boy accidentally shot himself

A 5-year-old Bronx boy was hospitalized Friday after he accidentally shot himself in the arm with his father's gun -- and now the child's dad is under arrest. (February 2013)

15-year-old confesses to killing family, wanted shootout, police say

A 15-year-old Albuquerque boy has confessed to killing his mother, father and three small siblings in a rampage at their home early Saturday morning.... Around midnight, early Saturday morning, the boy began to feel homicidal and suicidal, took a .22 rifle out of his parents' closet, and shot his mother in the head, police said. She was in bed with the boy's 9-year-old brother, who woke, and then became upset. The boy shot him too, according to police.

At that point, according to police documents, the boy 'lost his conscience' and shot his 5- and 2-year-old sisters in the head in their bedroom, where they were crying.

The boy set down the .22 rifle for the much higher velocity .223-caliber AR-15 that had also been in his parent's closet, police said. (January 2013)

Iowa police hunt for motive after 13-year-old boy allegedly shoots mother to death

Investigators in northern Iowa are dumbfounded about what drove a 13-year-old boy to allegedly murder his mother over the weekend by shooting her several times with a hunting rifle. (March 2012)

14-Year-Old Detroit Boy Shoots Mom While She Sleeps

A 14-year-old boy allegedly shot his mother to death while she was sleeping.... the 14-year-old used a gun owned by [her fiancé] in the shooting. (April 2012)

3-year-old accidentally shoots his dad to death while family watches TV

An Indiana dad was accidentally shot to death by his 3-year-old son after the little boy got his hands on the loaded weapon as the family sat watching television, police said. (July 2012)

Jake Evans, 17, tells 911 he shot and killed mother, sister -- charged with murder

Jake Evans, 17, called 911 to say that he shot and killed his mother and sister with a .22 revolver in the family's Aledo, Texas, home. (October 2012)

Mother 'killed 19-month-old son after shooting him in the head' while unloading gun to sell to her drug dealer

A mother has been charged with involuntary manslaughter after shooting her toddler in the head while he slept in his crib. ...Holly Pallone, 26, told 911 responders that she had been planning to sell the gun and was unloading it when it fired on Saturday. (October 2012)

Father Accidentally Shoots, Kills 7-Year-Old Son Outside Gun Store

A seven-year-old boy was shot to death when his father's handgun went off in the parking lot of a western Pennsylvania gun store. (December 2012)

There are too many of these stories to be told -- too many lives senselessly taken, and it is a sad reflection on our society that there is a Web site tracking such events: Today's Accidental Shootings.

I agree with the NRA that background checks would not have prevented the Newtown massacre, nor would they have prevented a father from accidentally killing his 10-month-old son. But I beg to differ with the NRA that more intensive background checks are not needed, and that more guns are the answer to preventing violence; that guns in the "right" hands are good, and guns in the "wrong" hands are dangerous. "Guns don't kill people. People kill people," as their saying goes. But people can't kill people with guns if they don't have them in their hands, whether those hands are criminal or law-abiding. Perhaps the answer is fewer guns. It rests with the people to decide to lay down their arms and say no to further bloodshed. The federal government, with the NRA's heavy guns pointed at their heads while simultaneously filling their wallets, refuses to act no matter how many of its children are senselessly shot at a movie theater while waiting to see the new Batman movie, studying in their classroom, or simply in the so-called safety of their own home.


Read Gabrielle Gifford's poignant and pointed editorial A Senate in the Gun Lobby's Grip, The New York Times, April 17, 2013.


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published April 22, 2013