When a 10-year-old kills his own mother, it's not an "I told you so" moment. But the death of Deborah McVay is certainly a wake-up call for the sector of America that thinks the right to bear arms should extend to the not old enough to grow pubic hair contingent.
McVay's 10-year-old son was given a 0.22-caliber rifle for Christmas. A week later, he allegedly shot his mother in the head with it. Cops are still trying to determine whether it was an accident or the boy was out to kill his mom in cold blood (he's put in a plea of "denial," which is the family court equivalent to "not guilty"). But let's face facts: Deborah McVay is dead. Her 10-year-old got the gun used in the shooting for Christmas. And now he's accused of pulling the trigger.
And it all could have been prevented with a little bit of common sense. Ten years old is too young for your own 0.22-caliber rifle.
I say this not as a knee jerk liberal looking at the situation from far outside the range of the ardent NRA types. In fact, I was born and raised in an area where guns and youth were common, where there are still awards given out to junior marksmen, where children are known to get their "lifelong hunting license" as a christening present. Guns are part of the landscape, and with that there's more of an emphasis on safety than in more urban areas where a couple buys a gun "for protection" and is so freaked out by what they've done that they fail to talk with their kids about the danger lurking inside their bedroom.
Not all guns are evil (the need for high powered sub machine guns is for another article). But all guns are dangerous, and made more so when they're in the wrong hands.
In particular, kids are still lacking in impulse control. Laws in a host of places make it illegal to leave a 10-year-old home alone because they do not have the wherewithal to take care of themselves should an emergency arise. Now imagine leaving them alone to figure out how to deal with a jammed trigger on their gun.
Likewise, at 10 kids are starting to feel the tug of hormones. The anger that plagues the sullen teen years is just starting to take root. I recall at times being so angry with my mother that I'd sit in my room shooting her the middle finger where she could not see me. It was juvenile and pointless, but that's exactly what I was -- a juvenile, with no real handle on my emotions or how to appropriately express my anger.
Beyond the inability to express the anger, there is little understanding of consequences at 10 years old. If a 16-year-old can't grasp that driving too fast is going to end in an accident, how can a 10-year-old understand that playing with a gun is going to end in tragedy? How many times do you hear kids say, "But I didn't mean to"?
If you want to teach your child about guns, legally take them hunting, by all means, go for it. But don't turn a gun into a Christmas present for a 10-year-old and think everything is going to turn out OK. You could be the next Deborah McVay. Let's learn from her tragedy.
Would you give a 10-year-old a gun?
Image via Willie Lunchmeat/Flickr