Toddlers and guns

dartgunGuns are not toys. They are deadly weapons designed to kill other human beings. Children sometimes think they are toys or their curiosity about guns, perhaps natural for some reason, can lead them to pick guns up. Children, and especially very young children and toddlers just can’t be taught to be responsible with guns no matter what the gun lobby may say. About 7 children a day die from gunshot injuries in America. And what are we doing about it?

In the last few weeks, a host of articles, PSAs and other information have been released about toddlers and guns and kids and guns. In what other country would anyone even think they had to alert the public to the dangers of toddlers with guns? This is insanity. It’s also dangerous to ignore it but ignore we have.

Let’s start with this article written by Zak Cheney Rice for Mic.com:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

Cheney Rice’s article was written to compare the ugly rhetoric about Muslims during this election in which one Donald Trump has raised the idea that all Muslims should be banned because of course, they are dangerous to Americans. Are they? Sure there have been some recent terror attacks committed by people who happen to be Muslim extremists. But there have also been far more home grown terror attacks committed by Americans who are not Muslim.

So let’s get back to kids, and particularly toddlers with guns. How do toddlers get their hands on guns? Are they dangerous human beings who should be prohibited from guns? Not unless their parents or another adult make them so. For without the adults, toddlers would not be anywhere near loaded guns. So keeping toddlers from getting guns is the responsibility of “law abiding” gun owners.

A new PSA was released on this subject last week. Check it out:

This edgy PSA may be scary and some may say, too much. But you can’t miss the point. A Washington Post article talks about the PSA:

“This PSA is satire,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said. “But the public health crisis it calls attention to is anything but. Whether the trigger is pulled by a toddler, a convicted felon, domestic abuser, or terrorist, we have a problem in America with guns too easily falling into the wrong hands. And that translates to hundreds of lives lost or changed forever every single day.”

There is so much here to write about that it’s difficult to unpack but this quote from the above linked article refers to yet another article written about this public health epidemic:

Last week, the Associated Press and USA Today released findings from a 2½-year analysis of minors killed by firearms. The study — which looked at accidental shootings involving children ages 17 and younger from Jan. 1, 2014, to June 30 of this year — analyzed more than 1,000 incidents in total, according to USA Today.

So now let’s look at this USA Today article:

The findings: During the first six months of this year, minors died from accidental shootings — at their own hands, or at the hands of other children or adults — at a pace of one every other day, far more than limited federal statistics indicate.

Tragedies like the death of Bryson Mees-Hernandez play out repeatedly across the country. Curious toddlers find unsecured, loaded handguns in their homes and vehicles, and fatally shoot themselves and others. Teenagers, often showing off guns to their friends and siblings, end up shooting them instead.

This is an American tragedy.

Two friends have started a new campaign to call attention to toddlers and children who kill with guns. They are determined to prevent these shootings. The Childrens Firearm Safety Alliance has been launched to find solutions to this under reported epidemic. From the link:

The prevalence of these incidents is astounding, even though we don’t have anything near adequate data on this type of tragedy. Reporting by the Washington Post has found about one shooting by a young child a week in America. This is likely an undercount, as many instances do not make the news unless it’s a parent or a sibling who dies. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention finds that at least six children are injured in an unintentional shooting every day. (…)

A new national initiative announced in mid-October seeks change. The Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance is coordinating physicians, law enforcement, prosecutors, lawmakers and other advocates to look at what can be done nationally through policy work, legislation and education around gun safety.

It has promoted the hashtag #NotAnAccident and propagated this disturbing tidbit: You are more likely to be shot by a U.S. toddler than by a terrorist. The ongoing psychological trauma of these shootings shouldn’t be discounted. What an awful burden it must be for someone to carry through life knowing that, as a young child, he or she took a life or caused serious injury.

Keeping a loaded gun unsecured and within easy reach of a toddler ought to be considered a criminal act of negligence. A portion of the law that was struck down in Heller understood this. It’s time to admit that upholding a person’s right to own a gun doesn’t need to conflict with efforts to keep young children’s tiny hands away from pulling triggers.

Tiny hands can pull triggers.

Others have entered the messaging about toddlers and guns. Gary Younge  who writes for The Guardian, has a new book out about kids who have been shot. I listened to an interview with him yesterday on Minnesota Public Radio. The title of Younge’s book says it all- Another Day in the Death of America. Younge is not writing in general about kids all over the world and guns. He is writing about the particular tragedy of kids and guns in America. While on air yesterday, he made that point. This is not happening in other countries and he should know as he is British. From the linked article:

Samuel is one of the 10 people known to have been killed by guns on 23 November 2013. That’s the day Guardian journalist Gary Younge randomly selected for this book, after which he spent 18 months unearthing the stories that lay behind these young lives and their premature deaths. It is a gripping account that leads the reader through places as disparate as the vast corn and soya fields of Michigan and the killing fields of Chicago, where gunfire is now so common that dogs are said to have stopped barking at it. It’s a journey through a deeply troubled America that will make its reader want to join the author in howling at the moon.

Howling at the moon. Indeed, that is what we all should be doing and in fact many of us have been. But our howls have been ignored by those who could make a difference by passing policies that could prevent some of the shootings and by awakening the country to the problem that is that kids and guns do not go together. The corporate gun lobby would have us believing otherwise which is deceptive at the least and has led to way too many parents and adults thinking a gun in the home will protect them from evil. But the evil is coming from their own guns found by children and used in “accidental” shootings.

Changing the conversation and changing the gun culture to reflect what the majority of Americans actually believe and practice rather than what the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre espouses, would result in fewer gun deaths. Because safely storing guns away from the hands of children and teens will make everyone safer. Because even though telling children not to touch guns is not enough.Because guns are deadly weapons designed to kill and with rights come responsibilities. Because more guns have not made us safer.

But, not to be forgotten, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre has a new warning and more lies for voters just before the election.

Yikes!

Take a look at the fear mongering in the video produced by the NRA and almost total hysteria about guns being taken away and the end of the world, apparently, if that were to happen. It won’t of course but fear sells and that’s the point. More fear for some people equals more gun sales. And more gun sales and more guns in more homes can lead to more small children shooting themselves or other kids ( or even parents).

Good grief.

Nuts.

We simply cannot sit back and let our children’s lives be placed at risk when there are solutions. Even responsible gun owners make mistakes and/or listen to the wrong message about what owning a gun means.

We need to tell the truth about the dangers of loaded guns in our homes.

Parents and adults can do something pro-active about the kids and guns epidemic. One common sense solution is to ASK if there are unlocked, loaded guns where children play. The Brady Campaign’s ASK campaign gives language to parents to have the difficult conversation that could save lives. Asking saves lives.

Also at the Brady Campaign web site, you can find this great report called The Truth about Kids and Guns.

The Trace is also keeping track of kids and guns incidents and other articles concerning gun safety for kids.

Kids can take a pledge to help end gun violence through this Student Pledge to End Gun Violence:

The Student Pledge Against Gun Violence is a national program that honors the role that young people, through their own decisions, can play in reducing gun violence.

Why not get kids involved in decisions that can make them safer?

Everytown for Gun Safety has also been collecting information about child gun deaths and solutions that can prevent the devastating loss of a child to an avoidable death.

The American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have been on board with child safety and guns for a long time. Gun violence is a national public health epidemic and needs to be treated as such.

And we can’t forget the years long push by the Children’s Defense Fund to talk about kids and gun violence and the need to prevent our children from dying from gunshot injuries. Their long time slogan- Protect Children Not Guns says it all.

The Gun Violence Archive has become the source that collects the necessary data for us all to understand the American tragedy of gun deaths and injuries. According to their charts, 553 children from 0-11 have died from gunshot injuries in 2016. Teens from 12-17 who have been killed or injured accounts for 2571 incidents. This is stunning and simply unacceptable. The fact that we do accept this without howling says a lot about America.

But the fact that so many are finally uncovering the facts and exposing them can only lead to stronger policy solutions and a change in the conversation. As a result, our kids will be safer from gun deaths and injuries.

If we can’t protect our children from avoidable unintentional, or even intentional, injury and death who are we as a country?

With all of this evidence and research, we know we have a serious problem that must be addressed.

We can do much better and we must do much better if we truly care about the health and safety of our children.

 

Guns dropping. Bullets flying. Kids dying. Parents and guns don’t go together.

droppingAs a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I need to write something. Armed Americans are dangerous. What is wrong with parents carrying guns around with them wherever they go or leaving guns out for kids and teens to find them? Guns in public places are proving to be quite dangerous to the health and well being of our kids and communities. And guns dropping are much more dangerous than dropping a rock on your foot. Recent news backs up my assertion.

How in the world can a mother be holding a gun or having a gun on her person while braiding her daughter’s hair? Yes, you guessed it. The gun dropped to the floor and killed the 8 year old daughter of the gun owner. This is so outrageous on so many levels and highlights the craziness of our insane gun culture. More from the article:

Marsha Lynch said she was braiding her daughter’s hair when a handgun fell to the floor and fired, striking her in the leg and then shooting her 8-year-old daughter in the head.

Sharia Lynch died from the gunshot wound before she could be airlifted to an area hospital.

“She was a precious little girl, she made everybody laugh — she was the kind of kid in class everybody loved,” said Ann Arnold, principal of Sara Ragsdale Elementary School. “Our hearts are just broke. We’ve got a lot of tears going on, of course. We’re in shock right now.”

The Paulding County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether the gun belonged to Lynch or her adult son, and authorities also want to know why the .9 mm handgun fired when it was dropped.

A firearms expert said a standard safety feature should have prevented the accidental firing unless the gun had been altered to give it a shorter trigger pull.

All of our children are precious. Why expose them to loaded guns and take a chance that a bullet could kill them in their own home? They are too precious to be shot and killed in our schools and on our streets. They are too precious for this kind of careless and cavalier attitude towards guns. They are too precious for us to be ignoring stronger gun laws just because some of us are afraid of the gun lobby.

Please read this report from the Brady Campaign- The Truth about Kids and Guns if you don’t believe me. 1,700,000 children live with unlocked, loaded guns in their homes.

The corporate gun lobby and gun extremists are so intent on selling guns and making people feel afraid of their own shadows that people have been duped into believing having a gun in the home will make them safer. The facts and the actual incidents happening every day do not bear that out. Many folks who walk out of gun stores or permit to carry classes ( if they are even required) do so with absolutely no knowledge of guns or shooting or gun safety. If we want to keep our homes safe from shooting our children in stupid and dangerous “accidents” like this one, we need to mandate training classes and make sure people pass them with an A. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people. Allowing just anyone to buy one or carry one around without the respect and seriousness it deserves is a national tragedy.

It was just a matter of time before our loose gun laws played out in our homes, in public places and on our streets.

And while I am on the topic of carelessness with guns, I must ask why anyone needs a gun in the doctor’s office? This Texas woman’s mother must have thought her doctor’s office would be a dangerous place when she herself was the one who caused the danger to herself and others. The gun found in the purse dropped causing a bullet to go through the wall of an office, striking a patient in the thigh.

Good grief. People sometimes get bad news from their health care providers. What they don’t need is a bullet flying around in the office. If they have a serious disease that could take their life or that of a loved one, getting hit and injured or killed by a bullet would be the height of irony. This is just plain ludicrous and an example of our gun culture gone awry.

Wouldn’t it be better to treat gun violence like the public health epidemic it is? Many reports and editorials have been written by public health providers. This latest one implores us to do something about the crisis of our kids dying from bullets in large numbers.

Gun violence is a public health issue that profoundly affects children and families. Firearm injuries are among the top three killers of kids.

As a pediatrician, I have a duty to protect children. And the data is clear: strong gun laws positively impact families and lower accidental gun deaths, homicides, and suicides in youth.

I firmly support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ stance that Congress needs to find a way forward on gun safety legislation that improves the background-check system (including the elimination of gun show loopholes), reduces gun trafficking, requires safe firearm storage, bans all high-capacity magazines, passes stronger handgun regulations, enacts a strong, effective ban on assault weapons, and supports research to generate effective approaches to prevention and healing.

If you aren’t concerned about the above incidents and what I write about here regularly, you should be. You can be part of the solution by demanding changes to our laws that make common sense. (…) 

We cannot afford to be silent on gun violence. I strongly encourage action on this issue, with appropriate legislation passed, research supported, and families able to access bolstered mental health services to heal those who are already victims of schoolyard killings, drive-by shootings, or accidental gun-related injuries in the home. Call your congresspeople. Take action to help be the change we need.

I hope that we can all agree that reducing gun violence would be good for America. Certainly, there is no simple, overnight solution. It took the better part of four decades to improve traffic safety. Let’s hope it won’t take that long to improve gun safety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is spot on. Don’t listen to what the gun lobby says about this. They are dead wrong. And I mean that metaphorically and literally. Remember that the Florida legislature passed a law penalizing health care providers for talking to parents about the risks of guns in their homes. 

Ludicrous.

Pay attention to what is going on in your state’s legislature. What happens in Florida and Texas often shows up in legislatures all over our country. The gun lobby is foaming at the mouth to loosen our gun laws to make it easier for dangerous people to get guns and to have virtually no laws about who can carry guns in public and where they can carry them. This is the virtual slippery slope towards towards lawlessness and anarchy. And that is what the corporate gun lobby seems to want.

Is this what you want? Is this the kind of country you want for your children and your families? Do you want to be sitting in your doctor’s office with armed citizens who aren’t properly trained to carry guns and know little about them? Do you want your kids to play in a home where a mother needs her gun with her at all times, including when she is braiding her daughter’s hair? Do you want a world where bullets are flying on our streets taking the lives of innocent people? Do you want a world where gangs and people who shouldn’t have guns are having wars in our streets because of easy access to guns? Do you want a country where easy access to guns is killing our kids on a daily basis in “accidents”, suicides and homicides?

If not, join a gun violence prevention group and get active. Ask your candidates what they intend to do about this shameful and ludicrous public health and safety problem. Demand that your elected officials have a position on how to prevent the shootings. Don’t let them get away with the deceptive gun lobby arguments. Challenge them to stand with the victims to make sure we are safe from the gun violence that is devastating our communities.

We are better than this.