Perspectives: Mom Whose 4-Year-Old Shot Her Doesn't Deserve Jail Time

A woman in Florida is being charged after her 4-year-old son shot her in the back earlier this month. Gun enthusiast Jamie Gilt kept a social media presence advocating for safe gun use, which just goes to show that one terrible mistake can happen to anyone. Thank goodness she is okay, but she's going to have a painful recovery, and now she's facing jail time for neglecting to keep a loaded gun out of her child's hands.

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All it takes is one time being careless, and tragedy can occur. Gilt was driving her truck when her son got his hands on her loaded .45 handgun, which was apparently in the backseat with him. He shot his mom in the back, and the bullet exited her stomach. Miraculously, she was able to pull over and keep from wrecking the vehicle or harming others -- including her own child.

Just one day earlier, Gilt had allegedly posted on the Facebook page Jamie Gilt for Gun Sense, "Even my 4 year old gets jacked up to target shoot with the .22."

I know a lot of people might say this is the perfect example of why we need gun control, but I think it's just a really good example of why we all need a reminder about how to properly handle our weapons. And, oh boy, is Gilt ever getting one -- and she should.

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You can't just keep a loaded shotgun in the backseat of your car, especially if you frequently drive with children. Not only is it an incredibly dangerous idea -- it's also the law. In Florida, it's a misdemeanor to "store or leave a loaded firearm in such a way that a child could gain access to it." Captain Gator DeLoach told reporters that the mom faces up to 180 days in jail, and that gun owners have the "additional responsibility of ensuring children do not gain unintended access to a firearm in hopes of preventing tragedies like this."

I honestly don't think that Jamie Gilt deserves to go to jail over this, because I'm pretty sure she learned her lesson in gun safety already. But it's still a big deal, and getting a misdemeanor drives home the point that you can't assume your young children are gun-safe.

My own kids are around guns frequently, and they have been vigilantly taught from the time they could crawl that guns are not toys, and that they're not allowed to touch them. The guns are never loaded when not in use, and they're locked in a gun safe and stored separately from the ammo.

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It would never occur to me that either of my kids would pick up a gun they found, aim at something, and pull the trigger. They've been taught better than that, haven't they?

The thing is, kids are curious and even sometimes naughty (you're shocked, I know), which is why firearm safety experts stress the importance of storing all guns in a way that can't be accessed by children -- even if the children have been raised in a family that shoots, or even if they've been to the range themselves.

All it takes is a moment, one bad judgment call about keeping a loaded gun where a small child could reach it, one pair of curious or clumsy little hands -- and lives could be at stake.

It's a miracle that Jamie Gilt wasn't hurt more badly than she was, and I hope that her story is a wake-up call to everyone who owns guns that it's beyond important to store them safely to keep them out of little hands. Owning guns isn't the problem -- owning them safely is.

 

Pieces in our Perspectives series reflect the views of the writer.

 

Image via © DANIEL KARMANN/epa/Corbis

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