The most commonly repeated complaint from the right-wing, NRA gun-nuts in this country is that “gun control only stops ‘responsible gun owners’ from exercising their Second Amendment rights. They repeat this line over and over, despite the daily occurrences of “responsible gun owners” leaving their weapons in the reach of children- with deadly results.
Last week was exceptionally bloody for our nation. Two eleven-year-olds killed other children with their parents’ weapons, and there were two more school shootings on Friday- with one more potential attack foiled by vigilant students. That appalling trend appears to be continuing this week.
Around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Las Vegas police received a phone call that an 8-year-old boy had suffered a gunshot wound. According to police, Clayton James Singleton, was left home alone with his younger sister and a loaded gun. The young boy picked up the gun and shot himself — the police pronounced him dead upon arrival. Neighbors said this isn’t the first time kids in the neighborhood have gotten ahold of their “responsible” parents’ guns:
“They were playing with a gun, and shot it, and all of them kind of went running, so we don’t know where the gun came from. It could have been the parents it could have been introduced by another kid — nobody really knows that’s the sad part.”
Unfortunately, this kind of accident is one we see all too often in the United States. A study released last year, by doctors, found that twenty kids are hospitalized in the U.S. each day because of gun-related injuries. A review of hospital records found that more than 7,000 children die each year, and another 10,000 are injured, due to firearms. Nearly one-third of the injuries and deaths were caused by unintentional gunshot wounds. It is now safer to be a policeman in America than a preschooler.
In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement asking parents to please remove guns from their homes, because the risk to their children was far too great. In 2011, David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, released a study that mirrored what the Academy claimed eleven years before. He found that American children, between the ages of 5-to-14, are eleven times more likely to die from a gun related injury than children in other developed countries.
“There are real and imaginary situations when it might be beneficial to have a gun in the home,” Hemenway concludes. “For example, in the Australian film Mad Max, where survivors of the apocalypse seem to have been predominantly psychopathic male bikers, having a loaded gun would seem to be very helpful for survival, and public health experts would probably advise people in that world to obtain guns. However, for most contemporary Americans, the scientific studies suggest that the health risk of a gun in the home is greater than the benefit. There are no credible studies that indicate otherwise.”
As we watch more shooting produce more dead children and adults, it’s hard to deny that this country has a serious problem. For far too long we have allowed the NRA, gun lobby and their Republican thralls poison our minds into thinking that guns are anything other than dangerous tools that perpetuate more violence. The Second Amendment was written more than 230 years ago, and our Founding Fathers could not have predicted how deadly firearm technology would become. It is far beyond time to change our laws.
Las Vegas police have not decided whether or not they are going to charge this child’s irresponsible parents with a crime, but they certainly should. It’s time to stop calling children dying from gunshot wounds “accidental.” There is no such thing as an “accidental” shooting when you leave your gun in an accessible place for your children. That is called “neglect” and it’s time that we started charging these neglectful parents with a crime when their guns kill innocent children.
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.