We hear a lot of tragic stories about kids accidentally killing themselves or their siblings with guns that they've gotten ahold of -- but we don't hear too many stories of kids who accidentally kill a parent this way. But that is what happened last week when a 4-year-old boy reportedly killed his father after finding a loaded gun. The twist? The gun didn't belong to his father. Nor was it even in their home.
It all began when 35-year-old Justin Stanfield Thomas and his 4-year-old son traveled from Phoenix, Arizona to Prescott Valley to surprise a friend in his home.
It must have been quite a surprise because the friend was reportedly sleeping in a back room when the pair entered the front of the house, and he didn't even hear them come in -- until he awoke to the crack of a gunshot.
Within a minute of entering the home, the young boy had apparently found the friend's loaded .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun and pointed it at his father, asked a question, and then shot. The father died.
The case has opened up a firestorm of questions about whether gun owners are required to keep guns locked up at all times. Or what their responsibility is in accidental shootings. Since the gun owner lived alone and had no children, he was not legally obligated to keep the gun locked up. But one has to wonder why he was so concerned about having his gun loaded and nearby -- yet apparently two people were able to walk into his house. Did he leave his doors unlocked?
I personally believe that if you choose to own a weapon of death, for this is what a gun is, then you are culpable and responsible for anything that happens with it. You may not be legally responsible, but you are responsible in other ways. What if someone just walked into this man's house, stole his loaded gun, and then decided to kill someone? Or even killed him? He was apparently in the back room sleeping with a loaded gun in another room, and that loaded gun was apparently within reach of a 4-year-old! Not very safe!
But the doomed father retains some responsibility too. I'm not quite sure that I buy that the kid made a beeline for a loaded gun the second they entered the home. My guess is that the dad wasn't really paying attention to what the child was doing. And was probably letting the kid roam around the home, touching things that didn't belong to him.
And then you've got a heaping handful of no-one-to-blame here. Horrible things do happen in this life and it's impossible to control all of them. Sometimes there is just no clear-cut person to blame in terrible situations. This might be one of them.
Do you think the homeowner bears any responsibility for what happened?
Image via gre.ceres/Flickr