Early Saturday evening, an 11 year-old boy from Jefferson County, Tennessee, took his father’s unlocked shotgun and shot and killed, with premeditation, his 8 year-old neighbor, McKayla Dyer, from inside his house – because she wouldn’t show him her puppy.
According to the local news station WKRN-TV (video below), the boy had a history of bullying the little girl. Her mother, Latasha Dyer said: “He was making fun of her, calling her names — just being mean to her…I had to go the principal about him, and he quit for a while, and then all of a sudden yesterday he shot her.” The boy, whose name is being withheld by authorities, has been charged with first degree murder, but a judge is to decide in the coming days whether or not to transfer the case to adult court.
In August, Occupy Democrats wrote a story about a 5-year-old Kentucky boy who was given a 22-caliber rifle as a birthday gift, and in the absence of parental supervision, accidentally killed his 2-year-old sister. As with the Kentucky tragedy, not surprisingly, there is no mention of holding the Tennessee’s boy’s father responsible for leaving an unsecured and unlocked weapon within reach of his young son. In Kentucky, we heard the family say; “It’s just tragic, but she’s in a better place.” In the video, we hear Jefferson County Tennessee Sheriff McCoy repeatedly say “Our prays are with the families involved in this tragedy…and I ask that you pray for the responders that responded to this tragedy and everyone please keep this community in your prays.” Again, not even the mention of the irresponsibility of the parent who left a gun accessible to his young son. The only outrage came from a neighbor of the murdered little girl, who in the understatement of the year said “Guns should be under lock and key if you have a child, nowhere in arms reach of a child.”
There is this lack of reality in the psyche of many Americans, especially those who embrace the culture of guns that these kinds of tragedies are somehow God’s ‘will’ and not preventable. There is no greater challenge for moral and legal responsibility than God and guns. Each week a similar tragedy is reported, but the moral outrage is – unfortunately – way too short lived and too politically unpopular for our elected officials to attempt to do anything about guns in this country. As President Obama said is his speech following the Roseburg, Oregon massacre last week, it’s up to the American people collectively to see too it that changes to our gun laws are made; “it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision.”
As a society, we represent 4% of the world’s population and own 42% of the non-military guns in the world. Right now, there appears to be this bizarre attitude in our society that there is nothing wrong with giving guns as gifts to young children and/or leaving guns unlocked and accessible to young children – now this boy will probably spend much of the rest of his life incarcerated for murder because his father did not lock away his gun. In the end, this attitude goes a long way to explain the ubiquitous acceptance of these kinds of tragedies reflected by Jeb Bush’s insensitive comment regarding the Oregon tragedy last week – “stuff happens.”
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.