This story really strikes a nerve with me. A four-year-old boy, right between my boys’ ages, accidentally shot by his older brother, aged seven, in my city.
I’m not one to shelter my boys from every danger, and there are likely seven-year-olds, even today, who have been taught to properly respect guns, and could be trusted to handle one without pointing it at anyone. This boy clearly wasn’t one. The article also mentions that one of the boys was playing with a lighter under his covers and set the house on fire to the tune of $20,000 damage just four years ago, at the age of five. Clearly, the parents and grandparents in this case are irresponsible to the point that I wonder how they get dressed in the morning without help.
I’m not advocating protecting children from every possible danger. Responsibility and respect for dangerous objects and situations cannot be learned unless children are exposed to them. However, a child can learn valuable lessons from, say, a hot griddle, a sharp corner, a steak knife, or an electric drill, and survive the experience mostly intact. There’s very little chance that they, or someone else, will die in the process. Guns, on the other hand, along with other things you might own like cars and table saws, are deadly serious tools. Respect for them, and proper handling, must be taught, explained, and demonstrated to children, if they might get exposed to them. Guns are designed to kill. That’s what they do when working properly. An adult, or an already responsible child, can grasp this by having it explained to them once. Small children, who may not even understand the concept of death as a finality, cannot.
Now, I’m not advocating for a law, of course. The article itself demonstrates the futility of that approach:
An Illinois law, passed in 1999, makes it a misdemeanor for a person to store or leave a loaded firearm that a minor can gain access to without permission from a parent or guardian and use it to injure or kill. A firearm is properly stored if it is secured by a trigger lock, placed in a securely locked box or placed in some other location that a reasonable person would believe to be secured from a minor.
The law did no one any good in this situation, as I would expect. Anyone who would leave a gun accessible to an irresponsible seven-year-old is unlikely to change his mind due to the law. ” Let’s see, if my kids find my gun and one gets shot, one of them will die. But wait, I’ll also face a fine and jail time… that settles it, I’m locking it up.”
The guidelines in the law are overkill, in any case, but might be a good starting point for those incapable of thinking, who need a law to tell them what to do, who probably shouldn’t have guns in any case. People even dumber than politicians. A gun in a locked box, or with a trigger lock, is less useful for its intended purpose, which is keeping your young charges from being killed or kidnapped by criminals. No, the only thing required here is basic responsibility on the part of the “adults” in charge. If you have a gun, and you have children in the house, you should know where it is with certainty at all times. You should know that those who can’t handle one properly and responsibly can’t pick it up and play with it. You should be able to get it immediately if you need it–otherwise, why bother having it? You should know how many cartridges are in it. This is the essence of proper gun control.
You can take your children shooting when you judge them responsible enough. They can probably learn respect or at least some understanding of the kind of damage they can do by seeing milk jugs or watermelons shot with hollowpoints (plus, that’s just plain fun for grownups.) You could try a book, like Massad Ayoob’s Gun-Proof Your Children, which I don’t have myself but about which I have heard good things.
Just don’t go through life like a brain-dead moron who thinks that bad things won’t happen since they haven’t so far.