Did you see the story about the five-year-old who accidentally killed his two-year-old sister with his "My First Rifle," which the family "kept in a corner" of their home? The boy's gun was had been given to him as a gift--a common practice, apparently, in many communities in the US. The manufacturer of the child's gun, a "Crickett rifle", has a "kids' corner" on its website.
Or maybe you heard the story--also this past week--about the Florida 2-1/2-year-old who shot and killed his mother? The boy's father was right there when it happened--he just couldn't get to the child quick enough to prevent the gun from shooting.
I can see, in a way, exactly how this happened. Last week my two-year-old asked me to fill her water cup. In the two seconds it took me to do that, she grabbed my laptop off the table. I turned around, still screwing the lid on the cup, as she smiled and said, "No Loulou!" while dropping the computer hard on the floor. So hard that the computer's screen is completely and utterly broken. ("Oh no. Bow-ken," she said. Cute.) I was right there. I'm usually careful with keeping things out of her reach. But I couldn't prevent her from this random and irrational little outburst of toddleritis. It's a good thing it wasn't a gun.
The bottom line is that I don't get guns for kids, or near kids. I just don't get it. I know I'm full of coastal-urban-intellectual bias. That is to say, I fully recognize that I have trouble understanding the need for guns in people's homes at all. I'm on the far side of a cultural divide that sometimes seems unbridgeable. But being that I live in the same country in which these awful events are continuing to occur, it makes me think about our nation's child safety standards. Shouldn't it be obvious that it's dangerous to have guns near kids?
It need not be said that many more firearm deaths are happening on a daily basis in the hands of older children--i.e. teens. [To get a sense of the incredible danger that guns pose to adolescents with ready access to them, listen to This American Life's two-part series on Chicago's Harper High School. It is eye-opening, and terrifying.] But when it comes to young children, we have expectations and laws about keeping their environments safe.
Among items that have had major recalls for safety concerns in this country are: fleece drawstring hoodies, toys with magnets that a child could swallow, and drop-side cribs. None of these items are designed to kill children, mind you. They are all usually safe if used correctly and under supervision of an adult. But this is exactly the same argument that gun-rights advocates make about guns for and near children.
We know that children are fallible--they don't yet have fully developed brains. The fact of the matter is, no adult is perfect either, or perfectly attached to their child at all times of day. It doesn't make sense to buy a gift for a child that can kill. And it doesn't make sense to keep deadly weapons in any home where a child lives.
Why this is even up for debate in our safety-concious nation remains a mystery to me.