Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Toddlers and Handguns: America's Self-Inflicted Tragedies Are Not Just Freak Accidents

by Nomad

The number of children injured and dead from accidental shootings is a national disgrace. Clearly guns and children don't mix but that doesn't stop many parents from patriotically exercising their second amendment rights. Even if it costs them their children.

Last month, in Lunenburg County, Virginia, a two-year-old boy shot himself in the head. According to law enforcement, the boy found a loaded gun on the dresser and pulled the trigger. Days later, the boy died of his self-inflicted wounds. 

That same weekend in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, another two-year-old named Zackary also shot himself with a loaded gun that had been left out in plain sight.
Montoursville police say the loaded handgun was lying on the couple’s bed Thursday and the two year old grabbed it, walked downstairs, and accidentally shot himself. The bullet went through his leg and is lodged in his back.
On May 23, a three-year old Mississippi boy died after shooting himself in the face while playing with a gun. A few weeks earlier, a 2-year-old Arizona boy also shot himself in the face with his father's handgun. Having found the gun wrapped up in sheets on the man's bed, the boy fired one round which hit him in the face and exited through his head He is expected to survive the accident. The damage and disfigurement will no doubt be a tragic feature of his life.

Earlier that same month, in Peoria Illinois, yet another child, Christian, found a family gun while playing in his father's bedroom and shot himself in the face.
Friends of the family said in TV news interviews that normally the gun would have been locked up but this, they said, was a "freak accident."

However, there seems to be a distressingly large number of these so-called accidents to call them "freak." We are only talking about one month, after all.

Who Pulls the Trigger
Astonishingly, according to an article last year in the Washington Post, nobody has bothered to compile the statistics regarding such shooting deaths.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that there is no nationwide data regarding the age of the person who pulls the trigger in an unintentional shooting. The Justice Department offered a similar response. “We do not have any statistics available regarding this topic,” a statistician with the Bureau of Justice Statistics wrote in an e-mail last week.
Still, the "tragic accident" stories continue to pile up of children shooting themselves (or each other.) It's become so common, it really isn't news anymore.
There's one thing that cannot be denied.
The U.S. has one of the highest reported rates of unintentional child gun deaths in the world and it will not decrease until we understand the scope of the problem.

The organization, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, released a report last year called  "Innocents Lost: A Year of Unintentional Child Gun Deaths”.
That report noted that a third of all American children live in homes with firearms. Of that number, a full 43 per cent of those contain at least one that is unsecured.
More worryingly, the report claimed that from  December 2012 to December 2013, at least 100 children were killed ın unintentional shootings — almost two each week, 61 percent higher than federal data reflect.
And even this larger number reflects just a fraction of the total number of children injured or killed with guns in the U.S. each year, regardless of the intent.

Around two-thirds of these unintended deaths (65%) occurred in a home or vehicle that belonged to the victim's family. The guns were generally legally owned but not properly secured.

Those that did not occur in a family home around 19% took place in the home of a friend of the victim or a home of a relative. The report also explains that:
In 58 percent of cases, the victim was killed by someone else, and in 36 percent the victim shot him- or herself. Toddlers were more likely to die in self-inflicted shootings, whereas older children were more likely to be shot by someone else.
The saddest part of this trend is that in most cases it needn't have happened. Had the gun owners stored their weapons responsibily, more than two-thirds of these tragedies could have been avoided.
Of the child shooting deaths in which there was sufficient information available to make the determination, 70 percent (62 of 89 cases) could have been prevented if the firearm had been stored locked and unloaded. By contrast, incidents in which an authorized user mishandled a gun — such as target practice or hunting accidents — constituted less than thirty percent of the incidents.
So these recent incidents are hardly freak accidents at all.
So, shouldn't somebody in government be independently investigating this?

A Score Card of Tragedies
The Washington Post story points out one of the problems getting accurate data. In 2002, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) launched The National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS). This organization was supposed to collect data from various sources, such as death certificates, medical examiner reports and law enforcement reports. Logically, if there had been a problem with guns and children, it would have shown up, right?

The problem is that some states didn't think that the system was worth the bother. When the system began, only 18 states participated. (This number has now increased to 32 states.) Yet, even now there are no nationwide figures.

There were other complications preventing officials from ascertaining the scope of the problem. Because there is a lack of standardization in medical reporting of accidental gun deaths, any information collected cannot be considered an accurate representation.  
Until there is a systematized way of keeping score, the depth of the problem cannot be fully understood. It will be seen by the public as an "unforeseen tragedy."

Yet, when so many children are dying, it's hard to support the argument that guns are necessary in every home because they protect families. Too many people appear to prefer their second amendment rights over the lives and the safety of their own children.
That's carrying personal liberty a little far.
For its part, the National Rifle Association says that it is purely the responsibility of gun owners to store guns away from children. Parents with guns must, according to the organization's website, “absolutely ensure that it is inaccessible to a child.”  
In other words, being both a gun owner and a lousy parent could prove to be fatal to your child.

Of course, the NRA's long-held defense that "guns don't kill people, only people kill people" will have to be amended to include hapless two-year-olds who wander into their parent's bedrooms.