Gun rights advocates are wrong about kids and guns

children shot
From Gun Death Tally- Faces of the Dead

I had a recent exchange with a gun rights advocate on my Twitter feed about keeping kids safe from guns. It all started when I posted this article written by my friend Cliff Schecter for Daily Beast. The article is about a cartoon made by someone at the NRA attempting to get kids to like guns and believe that if only they know some safety rules, a gun will never be used irresponsibly by them or anyone around them. From the article:

Think of it as a Joe Camel for the modern age. With armor-piercing bullets.

Ostensibly, it’s part of their “Eddie The Eagle program,” which instructs kids to run away from guns left lying around because bigger people in their lives still can own a firearm. And own them they do, as well as enjoying the freedom (!) to leave them pretty much any damn place they please. And because of the NRA’s efforts in parts of the South, West, and Midwest, these edified souls can now leave them in more places where a little one can find them—because nursery schools, parks, libraries, airports, and churches just didn’t have the same loving feeling without the guns.

So after creating the situation that puts over 650 in a hospital per annum and killed 62 kids a year from 2007 to 2011, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control (do you see why the NRA suppressed funding for gun studies for so long? For the NRA, statistics are bad), what to do to stop it?

First, they created Eddie The Eagle, who I guess is supposed to be like Smokey Bear, Old Glory, and one of the few animals not yet shot by Ted Nugent all wrapped into one. But now they have him in animated form, where he and his friends sing, dance, play video games, use the phrases the kids use (“like a true fashionista, heyyyy!”) and forget to run away from a gun, but promise the next time they see one, they’ll boogie on out of the room posthaste.

Schecter goes on to point out what is pretty obvious to most- unsecured loaded guns in homes with children are a really bad idea. More from the article:

Which they won’t because—as a piece on ABC News recently detailed—even after being instructed not to touch a gun, kids (who didn’t know they were on camera) will go right for them anyway:

More than 50 teenagers participated in the samePrimeTime experiment and many, including those who had recently received warnings to stay away from guns, responded similarly, agonizing over whether to tell an adult, playing with the gun, and aiming it at one another.

Even warning and educating kids about the danger of guns can have absolutely no effect on their behavior, the ABC News investigation shows. One teenager whose friend was recently killed in a shooting didn’t even hesitate before grabbing a gun.

But hey, in the video—in an effort to show how serious he is about preventing this kind of a tragedy from occurring—Eddie’s friend Officer Wingman tells the kids in quick succession: “You guys made the right decision. It’s always the best choice to get away from a gun. Who wants pizza?”

As the photo above shows in stark reality, way too many small children have been killed by guns just in the month of March of this year. Does the gun lobby care about these mostly avoidable deaths? Does seeing the faces of the actual dead even make a dent in the thinking of those who believe we are safer with loaded guns everywhere we go? How can the man who was arguing with me on Twitter actually believe that just properly training children about guns will do the trick? He has no common sense. Another gun rights advocate chimed in on this Twitter exchange saying  that it’s no different than teaching kids not to touch matches and knives as well. As responsible adults, haven’t we learned the hard way that telling small children not to touch doesn’t work? Often it evokes the opposite response- touch whatever it is you have just admonished a child NOT to touch.

You can read the articles about how each of these children pictured above died by a firearm injury if you click on the photo on this Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gun-Death-Tally-Faces-of-the-Dead/552514904768968) page. The fact that we are now keeping track of these deaths is both a good thing and also a reflection of our gun culture. We have it all wrong. Many, if not most, of these deaths could have been prevented with some common sense and an awareness of the risks of guns in the home.

David Waldman who is keeping track of gun deaths and injuries for Daily Kos in a blog called GunFail, has also published a map of unintentional shootings of children 18 and under in 2014. Stunning. Click on the circle on the map for the article. No other civilized country not at war publishes statistics like this. We are better than this.

The answer is to keep dangerous things away from children in the first place. Should we teach young kids how to use matches responsibly? Should we teach our young kids how to cut apples with a sharp knife?

They’ve got it wrong. Look at the photo. Can we train 3 year olds to use guns responsibly? Of course not. From the linked article:

A 3-year-old boy picked up an unattended gun inside a home and it went off, shooting a 1-year-old boy in the face and killing him Sunday afternoon, police said.

The 1-year-old was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.

Image source: WEWS-TV

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said investigators are trying to determine where the gun came from.

Full details about the shooting on the city’s east side weren’t released, but Williams said at least one adult was home when it happened.

“It’s a sad day for Cleveland,” he told reporters outside the home. “This fascination that we have with handguns, not just in this city but in this country, has to stop. This is a senseless loss of life … and it’s directly related to guns. We need to really take a hard look at the things that we’re doing out there on the state, local, and the national level to get some of these guns out of our communities. Because nothing good ever happens.”

“…Because nothing good ever happens.” We are better than this.

We can’t even train 9 year olds to shoot Uzis correctly. Go figure:

The new report, released by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday, sheds some new light on Vacca’s death. Among other things, it reveals that the girl said immediately after firing the gun that it was too powerful for her and had hurt her, something that delayed her family from immediately realizing that Vacca had been shot.

Duh! Come on. What adult in their right mind thinks a 9 year old should be able to handle an Uzi? It’s that fascination with guns that is leading to unintentional and sometimes intentional deaths. 8 children a day die from gunshot injuries in homicides, suicides and “accidental “shootings and many more are injured. That is simply not OK and it’s wrong. It’s wrong for so many children to die or become victims of gunshot injuries every day in a country that is supposed to be “exceptional.”

What is wrong with the “responsible” adults here? And can we talk about the dangers of domestic disputes involving loaded guns? Women and children and sometimes entire families are wiped out in just seconds by an angry person with a loaded gun. Guns are not making us safer.

The adults in the corporate gun lobby are busy trying to convince us all that loaded guns should be a “normal” part of our lives. “Law abiding” gun owners should be allowed to carry their guns in places where families gather to play, eat, learn and work. No problem, right? And also to carry these guns openly so we can all get used to armed people walking around on our streets and eating in restaurants where we all assume we will be safe. And so our legislators got deceived and believed them. Did legislators understand that “law abiding” gun owners like this one would threaten coaches and parents at a youth softball game when his granddaughter didn’t get to play?:

Caller: “We’ve got a parent that just pulled a gun at a softball game! He’s leaving the Chandler softball field right now!”

That frantic 911 call came just minutes after a girls’ little league softball game ended in Chandler Tuesday.

Video: Man accused of pointing gun at people during little league softball game

When one Davenport player didn’t get put in during a game in Chandler, police said her grandfather wasn’t happy.

He went to his car, got his gun, came back and pointed it at the children, parents and the coach. Good grief. This could have ended very badly. Was this man held responsible for his actions or did he get off because- because- because- rights? From the article:

“This is not behavior that’s acceptable to any of us — Davenport, or Chandler, or any of the softball leagues in Lincoln County,” Hulsey said. “This is far, far away from what we teach our girls.”

Gibbs was arrested and is facing charges of pointing a firearm and disturbing the peace, but police said he could be facing even more charges in the future.

“This is not behavior that’s acceptable to any of us…” What do we want to teach our children about guns? What was learned at the softball game? That guns solve problems? That a coach should be shot over not playing a child in a game? That’s it’s OK for a man to point a loaded gun around at a park? That children should model adults and when they get old enough to carry a gun, they, too, can bring a loaded gun to a softball game and threaten a bunch of people with it? Seriously. Where is common sense?

Our children are at risk. They are at risk, not mostly from strangers or criminals out to kill them. They are risk from their own families with guns. Take this 8 year Georgia boy, now tragically and avoidably dead at the hands of his own father because he was an angry man with a gun.

This is a scenario played out on a regular basis all over America. And what do we do? We run away from any sensible discussion or solutions. Why? Because… because…because.- rights.

Right. We are better than this. The gun rights extremists are wrong. Guns are a risk in homes and in public places where they are now carried. And what we are getting is dead children. Also dead adults. This does not seem like the kind of communities we want for our children and families. Let’s get to work to change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. We can change things if we have the common will to do so and if our fascination with guns also includes a fascination with protecting innocent victims from injuries and deaths inflicted by the guns.

UPDATE:

I found this article written by a Harvard student for the Washington Post which confirms what I have written in my post about the gun lobby’s position regarding gun safety and children:

Because of this difficulty, each time the NRA has been confronted with the child-death problem, it has adopted what might be called a “Look—what’s that over there?” strategy. The organization tries to paint media coverage of the deaths as the true problem; when a 9-year old killed her shooting range instructor with an Uzi, the NRA called the outcry “exploitative” and a “trick” by “anti-gun advocates in the media.” Alternatively, spokespeople point to other ways children die, and other kinds of gun deaths, to downplay the seriousness of the issue. The NRA has a habit of suddenly become very interested in bicycle accident statistics when the issue is raised, and Gun Owners of America insists that children are “more likely to die by choking on their dinner,” as if choking deaths is at all pertinent to gun deaths. Occasionally, they go as far as Tennessee State Rep. Glen Casada, who when speaking in support of the state’s new NRA-promotedguns-in parks billcalled these deaths “acts of God,” about which nothing could possibly be done.

Of course, we know one thing that could be done: We could admit that there are too many guns and get serious about reducing their number. These child-deaths are a uniquely American problem; in other countries, simply accepting such an endless string of accidental killings would be unthinkable. And as the child accident statistics have poured in, so have those on the efficacy of gun control: It’s becoming harder and harder to deny that more guns equals more violence. We also know that massive restrictions can have major positive effects. The word “Australia” is verboten among the gun rights crowd now that Australia has succeeded in cutting its firearm death rate by 59 percent after passing sweeping prohibitions on gun ownership. In fact, the Australian case offers such rock solid evidence of the life-saving potential of gun control that the pro-gun side has struggled to offer any response, except to yelp, “But you’re talking about confiscation!” (To which one might reply: “And?”) So there is a way to avoid having our preschools look like a Peckinpah film. It just involves some tough measures. (…) Since they strongly oppose both ownership restrictions and parent accountability, one might expect the NRA to emphasize safety. Yet the prevailing attitude appears to be that even talk of basic responsible ownership is for wusses and Constitution-haters. The NRA has waged all-out war against pediatricians and the CDC for recommending gun safety to parents, lobbying hard for laws to prohibit doctors from even discussing firearms risks with families. They’ve also stood staunchly against any effort to require that guns be kept safely stored out of the reach of children. The massive Nashville conference schedule contains endless presentations on the necessity of an armed citizenry, but apparently not a single event on safety or training. There are all kinds of rousing flourishes about “our role as an Armed American Citizen in the future challenges to our nation,” and how one’s weapon must always be at the ready because “danger can lurk around any given corner.” There are even sessions to discuss new strategies for skirting or dismantling the measly remaining gun control laws.

(…) The tradeoffs between safety and accessibility put the NRA in a bind. Either it must acknowledge that these deaths will be a logical consequence of its policies, or it must retreat from its absolutist position on regulation. Neither seems likely, which is why the organization will spend its time in Nashville listening to Nugent and studying military history, carefully avoiding the one conversation it is desperate not to have.

As I say often, this is the national conversation we must have about the role of guns and gun violence in America.