Guns and Toddlers: Can They Co-Exist?

It's been a scary season of toddlers getting their hands on real guns. April already wrote about the way toy guns in toddlers' hands makes her uncomfortable. I feel it sets them up to be comfortable with real guns.

Three-year-old Ryan Owens in Clark County, Washington, the son of a sheriff's deputy, got his hands on his father's gun and shot himself. He died at a hospital a few hours later. Ryan's dad, the deputy, was home and off-duty at the time. The boy shot himself with his dad's personal gun, not his service weapon. In a sad, sick twist, in 2003, the son of a sergeant from the same department found his gun and accidentally killed his sister, Emily Randall.


Immediately after that, the department issued lock boxes to deputies and required that they keep their guns in them. As they said last week:

"The Sheriff's Office is no stranger to tragedy, and took significant steps to ensure that appropriate firearms storage policies and procedures are in place following the very tragic death of Emily Randall in 2003." 

But here's the rub: For a deputy's personal weapons, it's only a suggestion. And clearly that wasn't enough.

In Dallas another toddler whose grandmother had to take him with her to cover a bartending shift (we won't even get into the propriety of that) wandered into a back office to find a gun on a desk and shot himself. He was in critical condition at last word.

And right next door in Fort Worth, another tot found his dad's gun and shot himself. In this case it was only in the hand, and he appears to be fine. He and his sister were put in foster care.

Mix in this Wisconsin man deliberately pelting his son with BBs from a gun and it's clear toddlers just can't escape being at the end of a barrel somehow.

I know a cluster of events like this can just be a coincidence and not a real trend, but that doesn't make it any less disturbing. It's hard not to notice that in all these cases the shooters were boys who clearly gravitated to the weapons. Is that because it's just in their genes? Of course not, it's because they've been repeatedly told and shown that it's what boys do, with toys, with their bare hands, and with the real thing.

And in every case it was just plain crazy carelessness. While the law and the Constitution certainly give folks the right to own their arms, it would be a lot easier to take if they would lock the damn things up. Whether you're a cop or a bartender. 

What are your thoughts on boys playing with guns? And gun safety when kids are concerned?

Image via JoeShlabotnik/Flickr


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