3-Year-Old's Tragic Death Should Scare Gun-Owning Parents

gunThere's been another horrible, heart-breaking gun accident with a child: A 3-year-old shot himself and died when his family left him in their car while they got gas at a station. Apparently, the child found his father's loaded handgun under the driver's seat. It's unbelievably sad and I feel for the parents. However careless or irresponsible they may have been, I wouldn't wish this on anyone.

Now as a non gun-owning parent, I know what my standard response is supposed to be: We need stricter gun laws! Right? But I can't help wondering what gun-owning parents think. We actually do have some gun laws. Thousands of parents own guns and practice gun safety. What do they think when they hear stories like this?

I asked around the Stir office, and one of us does own a gun for target shooting -- we'll call her "Annie." She grew up handling a gun and learning safety, and says she's used to hearing people blame guns for tragedies. Annie says, "I can’t believe any parent would be so stupid as to leave a loaded gun just lying around." But while she believes most gun owners are very careful about safety, "there's always one careless person in the bunch and it's gonna happen." Annie keeps her gun at her parents' house.

A few of us have family members and friends who own guns, and know that when gun owners hear about other careless parents, it makes them angry. Accidents like this give gun ownership a bad name.

There also seems to be a difference between people who own guns for hunting and people who own hand guns for other reasons. Hunters feel like they are more strict about gun safety and keep their rifles locked up. They're the ones patiently teaching their children about gun safety at an appropriate age. But not all hunters are sensible.

Same goes for police -- they carry a weapon as part of their job, and most practice gun safety. But still, accidents with their children happen. One wife of a cop admits that she worries about the day her husband forgets to hide his gun. One of my colleagues has a friend who carries a concealed weapon license and believes strongly in gun rights. But late one night, when he heard some noises around the house and looked around, gun in hand, the noises turned out to be one of his kids milling around the house. It was a terrifying close call that really shook up the gun owner.

So if most gun owners are responsible, never take the real danger of guns for granted, and keep their firearms safe from children, do they also have an obligation to keep other gun owners in line? I would think at the least it's in the best interest. Annie says, "If I knew someone was keeping a loaded, unlocked gun around their kids, I would go ballistic on them." She would even go so far as to report the parents to the police. Otherwise, she says that gun owners can connect with other owners at gun clubs and shooting ranges and try to influence each other for the better that way.

What do you think? Do careful gun owners have a responsibility to educate and influence other gun-owning parents to be safer?


Image via xiombarg/Flickr

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nonmember avatar gunowner

This is the parents fault, not the guns fault. They shouldn't have left their child alone in a vehicle that contained a loaded gun that wasn't secure. If people would use common sense accidents like this wouldn't happen.

We have many guns in our home and have a five year old running around. They are never loaded or left in a place that is available to him. He also knows that guns are not toys and has been taught to respect them.

Kwiat2 Kwiat2

You can only talk the stupid out of people so much. I know people who drive around with loaded guns in their car and they have kids. You can't supervise them. Too bad there's not an idiot check before you buy a gun but perhaps we should be required to take gun safety classes. All guns should be locked away at all times when not in use and children need to be educated about the dangers of them.

Kaela Wheeler

I feel so sad for this family, but it doesn't affect how I feel about guns, because keeping a loaded, unlocked gun under the driver's seat of your car is something I would never do. Hunting/sport guns belong unloaded, in a locked gun case and the ammo in a locked ammo box. My husband would like to have a loaded handgun for protection, but doesn't intend to get one until he can afford the finger keyed lock box to go with it.

bluec... bluecowgirl

uh my husband has two guns for target shooting (its a man thing, I can't imagine him ever shooting a real live animal with a gun but he loves to have his guns and get things like scopes and stuff and go to the range with his friends then talk about sighting and bores and gauges and all sorts of things I don't understand) and its kept unloaded at all times, in a locked gun cabinet. It would be hard for the kids to unlock the cabinet, unlock the ammo, get the gun loaded and fire it. Leaving a loaded gun anywhere, if you have kids or not, is the stupidest thing ever.

dirti... dirtiekittie

i am all for gun rights and gun ownership. making stricter gun laws does not help - we've debated this time and time again. making laws does not fix stupid.

my heart aches and goes out to this family - i also have a 3 year old and this touched me. but i have to wonder, why in the hell was there a *loaded* gun in a vehicle with children? i may be slightly out of touch, but i recall back when i hunted more (living in texas, don't do that so much here in cali lol) that there were laws about having your shells and guns separate; you couldn't be pulled over with a loaded weapon or it was an instant ticket (possibly arrest or confiscation without a permit, i don't recall totally as i was younger).

hindsight doesn't bring back this child though; my prayers are with the family that they are able to heal, and hopefully learn from this.

PonyC... PonyChaser

There is a balance to be maintained between keeping your family safe from intruders/crime, and keeping your family safe from ANY harmful object in your environment.

For example: I keep a pocket knife in my truck. It is in plain view, in a little cubby of my dashboard. It has been in a similar place in all of my vehicles long before my son came along. A knife is as deadly a weapon as a gun. My son has known his entire life that the knife is not a toy, and he is not to touch it (now, without permission - then, ever). He never went for that knife. Why? Because (1) I taught him from the start, and (2) I never left him alone with it, until I knew he could be trusted.

You can't legislate stupid out of people. This was a tragic - EASILY PREVENTABLE - accident. Why was a 3-year old left unattended in the car in the first place? I'm pretty Free Range, but at age 3?? Why is nobody asking that question? Because a gun was involved, and suddenly it's the fault of the gun, not the fault of the irresponsible parents.

KWnav... KWnavywife

I have several questions for those parents. 1) Why was the child left unattended long enough to find the gun and shoot it? 2) Why wasn't the child strapped into a car seat? 3) Why was the gun under the seat AND loaded? 

Like someone before me said, you can't legislate the stupid out of people. I was raised in a house with guns. I have known for as long as I can remember that you don't play with guns, you treat every gun as if its loaded and I was taught NEVER to touch a gun with out my dad around.  We are teaching our kids the exact same things.

Mike Hathaway

Parents have an absolute responsibility for the safety of their children - and that's a big part of why I always have a loaded pistol nearby. All gun owners have an inherent responsibility for the safe storage and use of their weapons.

Unfortunately, too many people only think of guns as they see them on TV - mostly in the hands of criminals or the police. Too few actually take the time to maintain proficiency and educate themselves on proper keeping and use - and that is what we need to work on, not trying to promulgate some sort of aversion to firearms.

We have dangers all around us - automobiles, electricity, household chemicals, etc. But because most of us are proficient at using these things correctly, we appreciate their benefits without an unnatural fear of them. Firearms should be no different.

When I think of the Connecticut doctor who's wife and daughters were raped and killed by convicted felons, and all he could do was go next door and HOPE that someone would be there to call the police who he HOPED would get there in time (they didn't), that is utterly unacceptable. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own personal defense and there is no better option than learning to properly keep and use a firearm.

starl... starlight1968

ok I'm gonna say it... Why was the kid NOT IN THE CAR SEAT??... My dad always carried a gun in the car when we traveled, you just don't know the area you are heading into/through and want to be safe... my dh does the same.... sometimes I knew about it sometimes I didn't but I'll be damned if I would have touched it cause it WAS NOT MINE!... Are kids just not taught things we were growing up??  sigh...

oh p.s. I do have a gun myself, been to the shooting range so I KNOW how to use it, BUT it has a trigger lock on it that needs a tiny key...and it's locked unless I use it...

joled... joledalynn

I own a few hand guns myself and I practice gun safety.  People that dont care or think oh that cant happen to me my kids would never play with my gun are the ones that make us careful gun owners look bad.  I love my kids and I would like to think they would never play with mommys gun that she has told them not to touch ever.  But does that mean they wont touch it and leave it unattended and LOADED?  Hell to the no.  I dont want my children to be scared stupid of a gun but I want them to know its not a toy and by not handling it properly can cause a tragedy.  First off, am I the only one that noticed the 3 year old wasnt in a car seat restrained??  Secondly, I carry a concealed weapon but I ALWAYs have mine on some sort of safety.  I mean if you need to use it it gives you an extra second to say ok... if I shoot this gun I KNOW there is a law suit attached to the bullet is this deadly force?  Nothing wrong with owning a gun... absolutely something wrong with a loaded gun being in the hand of an uneducated person.

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