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.

 

The Brady Campaign on the march

tipping pointI have been away from my blog while attending the Brady Summit in Washington D.C. hosted by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the American Public Health Association. Hundreds of attendees were inspired, saddened, educated and energized by like minded people on a mission. The tide is turning. We can feel it and we know it by the public responses to the recent tragedies. We see the testimonials. We hear the speeches. We watch as the news media is changing what they are saying about the issue and at least some politicians are finally speaking the truth about our national gun violence epidemic. Thank goodness. It’s far far too late for way too many. But it’s a step. And I hope it will be the slippery slope towards common sense.

I wrote in my last post about the article on the CNN website written by Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign. We have reached a tipping point on the issue of gun violence.

A recent shooting in Virginia which ended with the murder of 2 journalists on live TV was a tipping point. At the Brady Summit, one vey inspiring and emotional moment came when Andy and Barbara Parker, parents of Alison Parker, one of the Virginia journalists, spoke to the attendees. Here is a video of Andy Parker’s remarks:

Let’s do this for Sarah and Jim Brady and for Alison. Let’s not let our mission be derailed by those whose interests are in keeping gun industry profits high and keeping gun lobbyists in business. For too long, those voices have drowned out the voices of victims and survivors. Not any more. We will not be silenced.

Meanwhile, as advocates were learning from the experts in public health and safety, suicide prevention, physicians, attorneys, elected officials, victims, state advocates, and others-   these are the things that went on in our country while we weren’t paying attention:

Insanity.

You can read much more about the world of firearm accidents and intentional deaths at several good sites:

Accidents Happen Guns Kill

Ohh shoot blog

Gun Violence Archive

The Daily Kos- Gun Fail

Don’t you find it amazing that there are so many sites reporting on accidental and intentional gun discharges? Only in America. But much of the research and reporting is coming from sites like this. Since the NRA owned Congress members made sure government agencies can’t research the causes and effects of gun violence, it’s good news that others are stepping up.

One of the best sources of information outside of the public health researchers is the on-line publication, The Trace. In one of today’s articles, we learn that the ATF only monitors 7% of gun dealers in a year. That is a crime, actually.

Where are crime guns coming from? Many from “bad apple gun dealers”. You can read more about that in this piece from the New York Times today:

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, has pledged to throw his weight behind the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the country’s most prominent gun control groups, in an as-yet-unannounced effort demanding that the Justice Department more closely scrutinize so-called bad apple gun merchants, according to people familiar with the campaign.

Mr. Cuomo, in an interview about his plans to work with the Brady Campaign, promised that his involvement in national gun politics would continue to deepen. He said he would hit the campaign trail in 2016 to emphasize the issue of gun violence, which he repeatedly called “the big issue” in national politics. (…) To start, Mr. Cuomo will be among the chief signatories of a letter to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, to be released as early as next week, urging the Justice Department to punish what the Brady Campaign describes as a small fraction of gun dealers who sell an overwhelming share of weapons used to commit crimes. He has promised to lobby other governors around the country to join in the push.

Yes, we can do something about gun trafficking and crime guns and we will.

And you can watch 60 Minutes on Sunday for information about Smart Gun technology that has the potential for saving lives. The gun lobby opposes Smart Gun technology. Why? They need to explain how they can be against new technology that could prevent a toddler from pulling a trigger to kill or hurt themselves or somebody else. They need to explain how they can be opposed to a technology that could keep a teen from accessing a gun to use in a suicide or a school shooting. They need to explain why they oppose technology that could prevent a robber from using a stolen gun in a crime.

But I digressed. I sat at a table with a BBC reporter at the Brady Summit on Tuesday. She was doing a story on America’s fascination with guns and the lack of ability to change the minds of Congress when so many Americans want change. She was stunned at the American gun culture and our seeming tolerance for the carnage. It was unfathomable to her that we have failed to act. These things are just not happening anywhere else in the world. But she was also encouraged that groups were working state by state to change the gun laws that don’t get passed in Congress. That was news to her. As Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy spoke to the summit attendees, she paid attention to his remarks about how hard it was to get new laws passed even in the state where the massacre of 20 small school children occurred.

I explained to her about the insidious corporate gun lobby and the fear of said lobby affecting too many of our elected leaders. The lies and deceptions keep coming as the influence of the gun lobby wanes. You can read about the latest from the NRA’s own Mr. Wayne LaPierre in this Media Matters article:

The NRA’s lie is brazen given widespread reporting explaining how the gun group interferes with ATF operations. As USA Today reported in 2013, “lobbying records and interviews show the [NRA] has worked steadily to weaken existing gun laws and the federal agency charged with enforcing them.”

According to The Washington Post, “the gun lobby has consistently outmaneuvered and hemmed in ATF, using political muscle to intimidate lawmakers and erect barriers to tougher gun laws. Over nearly four decades, the NRA has wielded remarkable influence over Congress, persuading lawmakers to curb ATF’s budget and mission and to call agency officials to account at oversight hearings.”

The NRA’s opposition to the ATF has been extreme. The gun group has threatened to attempt to abolish the agency all together and LaPierre infamously called federal law enforcement agents “jack-booted government thugs” who wear “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms.”

Sigh.

While lobbying on Wednesday at the Hart Senate office building, a group of us were standing with our”Background Checks Save Lives” stickers on and managed to attract attention and comments from quite a few people. One of them was a Senate staffer who was not American born but worked for a Senator who he said did not agree with us. The thing was- he himself agreed with our views and shook his head as he tried to figure out why America is so gun crazy and so violent. I told him that the majority in his Senator’s state agreed with us and he should go back and check the polling date to share with his boss.

For if our own leaders fail to represent us- the majority and the victims, survivors, experts, researchers, law enforcement, clergy, youth, gun owners, health care providers, educators, hunters, and others who want gun safety reform, what else is there? Congress must act. Our state legislators must act. They are now hearing from the millions who want to get this job done in the name of the victims.

We are marching forward towards saving lives in spite of stiff resistance. We are holding our elected leaders responsible and asking them to commit to measures to keep us all safer in the halls of Congress and state legislatures. The tipping point is here.

We have had #enough. If you have also had enough, check out the #enough campaign on the Brady Campaign’s website.