Shoot your neighbor during a violent argument and you could conceivably get the death penalty. Kill or maim your neighbor or your spouse accidentally and you could go to jail and pay a huge debt of restitution, as well. If your child finds your gun, plays with it, and shoots himself or herself or someone else, should you, the parent, go to prison?
There are plenty of horror stories available online and regularly in local news about children who find a loaded gun and pull the trigger. Sometimes, careless parents shoot their children or one another. We have discussed some of these incidents right here on the USCCA Blog.
You are a “responsibly armed American.” That means you have had instruction on issues of personal defense and gun safety. If you have children in the home or if they accompany you when you carry, your burden is especially difficult. Their safety and well-being is probably uppermost in your mind and part of the reason you carry. Unfortunately, not every parent is so mindful. Here’s an example:
September, 2013: The first child to die from gunfire in Yellowstone National Park was a 3-year-old girl killed by a bullet from her father’s handgun at the Grant Village lakeside campsite.
April, 2016: A 10-year-old boy, left alone at home with an older sibling, accidentally shot himself in the stomach. According to police, the boy found the gun and it “accidentally discharged.”
There are, unfortunately, hundreds of such accounts available online. Beyond the damaged or dead children and the trauma to families, there is a larger social issue. Neither of those extremes is within our immediate control, but what is in our control is the fact that such terrible—and apparently endless, not to mention such horrors as school shootings—accidents give the entire firearms community a black eye:
“By the end of 2015, about 265 children under 18 picked up a firearm and shot someone by accident, and 83 of those shootings were fatal, according to research compiled by the gun control group ‘Everytown for Gun Safety.’ Some 41 of those deaths involved the shooters themselves, and most of the shootings involved toddlers or teens who were playing recklessly with the guns.” (International Business Times – January 2016)
If you don’t think this merits discussion on our concealed carry website, go online and read opinions and editorials in the media. It’s too easy to say, “well, the media is biased” or against guns or whatever. And that may, generally speaking, be true. The left-biased Slate.com is well-read and very popular; its stories are quoted and its writers such as Dahlia Lithwick (“Leave Your Gun Out, Go To Jail” – October 2015) offer commentary in other media such as National Public Radio. They are influential.
But it’s still an interesting question. Your 3-year-old finds your gun while you are in the shower and shoots herself; should you be held responsible? At least 28 states have “child access prevention” laws, which means guns must be stored properly, locked away to prevent children from finding and playing with them. Statistics are rare and unreliable, but most commentators believe that despite such laws, careless parents are rarely prosecuted. Prosecutors are supposedly loath to take “grieving parents” to court.
I think they should. Leave your firearm out and allow your children or guest children to play with it, go to jail. Is it too much to ask that homes with children also must have safes or lock boxes or secure storage?
Nobody likes to be told what to do. But we have an immense bureaucracy in America dedicated to vehicles—beginning with your state’s DMV and the county sheriff hidden behind the tree with his speed gun and ending with some government slope-head cashing your check for speeding or whatever the local cop is hunting for. And vehicles kill and maim hundreds of times the number of children than guns. A cop finds you driving without your children in a proper seat with the belt fastened and you could go to jail.
So let’s think about it. Let’s get beyond the “grieving parent” to the fact that if they cared about their kids (not to mention the rest of us) they would have locked their gun in a vault when they weren’t carrying. That’s my two cents.