Where do the guns come from?

From the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence

Every day there are shootings in the homes of Americans all over the country. Some of them make the news, some don’t. Many are suicides which don’t often make the news but sometimes found in an obituary in a local paper not listing a cause of death. Many are domestic shootings that are arguments or disagreements about a separation that end in death. Some are children who find a gun and accidentally shoot someone in the home- a friend, a relative or him or herself. These do make the news.

Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, there are places where we can find out the truth about how often guns are used by children and teens and by lawful gun owners in “accidental” gun discharges. For example, in the AccidentsHappenGunsKill blog, 2 incidents were reported just today. One was a 3 year old New Orleans child who was shot and killed when the gun of his grandmother, a security guard, sleeping with a gun under a pillow, “accidentally” discharged.

Most gun owners are responsible with their guns. Many, but not all, lock their guns in safes away from the ammunition, where they are hopefully safe from small hands, teens, vulnerable adults and thieves. That’s all good. My last post was about gun safety. 

We know that teens cannot legally purchase guns. But sometimes parents give their teens guns for hunting or other purposes. They may think that teaching them about gun safety will make everyone safer. This is not always the case. A story that ran in the Star Tribune today highlighted the release of a Waseca, Minnesota teen from a prison facility for having plotted a school shooting and bombing after first killing his family. From this article:

If La­Due goes home, his par­ents have agreed to re­move any fire­arms from the house and deny him Web ac­cess. La­Due also could not leave the house ex­cept for authorized ap­point­ments.(…)

Police found La­Due in a Waseca stor­age lock­er in April 2014 af­ter a cit­i­zen saw him en­ter it sus­pi­cious­ly. He told auth­ori­ties of his plans to shoot his fam­i­ly, set a fire in the coun­try­side to dis­tract em­er­gen­cy of­fi­cials, and go to school with pres­sure-cook­er bombs and guns to kill as many peo­ple as he could.

Auth­ori­ties who searched the lock­er and the boy’s bed­room had said they con­fis­cated chemi­cals, sev­er­al guns, am­mu­ni­tion and a few com­pleted ex­plo­sives. Officers con­clud­ed that he in­tend­ed to car­ry out the mas­sa­cre with­in a week or two.

The case has raised ques­tions about what to do with the teen, who had plot­ted but nev­er hurt any­one. His par­ents have said they be­lieve he nev­er would have car­ried out the plan.

I have sympathy for this family. It has to be one of the worst things that could have happened short of the actual attack their son was planning. But parents need to realize that these things actually have and do happen in our country. The story does not mention where the teen got his guns nor any charges against anyone for the fact that this boy was in possession of the guns that he was going to use to carry out this attack.

This peaked my interest about how this boy got his guns and I had forgotten that, of course, the guns were given to him by his parents. Except for one, an SKS, that he got by forging his Dad’s signature and apparently bought it from a friend’s father.The majority of guns used by teens in school shootings come from their own homes and their parents. This report from the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence, The Truth About Kids and Guns, reveals what is true but rarely spoken out loud, and most especially by the corporate gun lobby. In fact, 2/3 of the guns used in school shootings come from the homes of the shooters. Even if the teen doesn’t have their own guns stored in their bedroom as did the Waseca teen, teens and children know where the guns are in their homes. My own adult kids have told me that they knew where my husband’s hunting guns were stored even though we had not discussed this nor showed them.

(As an aside, most guns used in mass shootings are legally purchased.)

The big and very serious question here is where is the responsibility of the adults in the room? This story from CNN profiles this teen whose heroes were the Columbine school shooters and the Boston Marathon bombers. From the story:

He purchased a black duster jacket so he could dress like Harris. “Kinda want to pay tribute to him,” he would later tell police. He hoped to time his attack to the Columbine anniversary, in honor of his idol.

He’d studied the Boston Marathon bombers. He thought their attack weak because they killed just three.

He planned to fill two pressure cookers with 6,000 ball bearings, as well as buckshot and screws. Each bomb would have cans of WD-40 strapped to it to magnify the blast. He would use flash powder, instead of black powder, to create a more powerful explosion than the ones in Boston.

John LaDue enjoyed playing the guitar before his arrest.

He believed Adam Lanza was a coward for killing first-graders. “I wanted to target people in my grade who I knew.”

He named five students at his high school who he wanted to kill for specific reasons. Two were classmates who talked too much in German class and “got annoying.” A third called him queer on the school bus in seventh grade. He also would target the school resource officer.

So meticulous was his plan that LaDue told authorities he chose a bolt-action Soviet-style SKS rifle to use in the attack — a weapon without a large magazine like Lanza’s AR-15 or other semi-automatic rifles used in shooting sprees.

That way, he said, people lobbying for gun restrictions after his attack would have a weaker argument. “I kinda wanted to prove that wrong.”

The Columbine mass school shooting continues to cast a long shadow in our country. Other teens admire the shooters of the first mass school shooting in a K-12 school in our country that is still a marker for the others that followed.

And so today we have teens plotting similar attacks. And we have teens with access to guns they should not have. More from the article:

Police found seven guns in John’s bedroom: two near his bed and five in a safe in his closet. All but one of the guns belonged to his father.

David had taught both his children how to hunt and took them to gun safety courses. He trusted his son with guns to protect the family while he worked the overnight shift at a steel plant.

He had no idea that John had purchased a gun; he got it through a friend’s dad by forging his own father’s signature.

John’s sister, Valerie, knew about her brother’s fascination with explosives, but she viewed it like any big sister might: My brother is such an idiot. She says she didn’t know about his plot. He bugged her about getting a storage locker, saying his room was getting crowded and he wanted to move some stuff. She thought it was a weird idea and refused to help him. A friend’s mother did.

What were the adults thinking here? There are no charges against any of the adults because, of course, the gun culture in our country is such that there is a cavalier attitude by some towards the actual risks of guns in the home and safe storage is not considered to be important apparently. Yes, this was a foiled potential school shooting/bombing thanks to a citizen who reported suspicious behavior. And yes, the family of this teen is and was devastated by what happened. There is heartbreak and blame to go around. But until we wrap our heads around the idea that teens should not be keeping guns in their own bedrooms for many obvious reasons, we will run the risk of many more shootings- domestic, suicides, accidental discharges and intentional shootings. It doesn’t have to be like this.
One of my drumbeats in this blog is that guns are dangerous and deadly weapons designed to kill people. There are risks to owning them that must be taken seriously. Common sense tells us that with rights come responsibilities. We can only hope that the adults with guns will think twice about how their teens and children access the guns in their homes.