Loaded Gun On Bed? – Check, 4 Year Old Kid? – Check, Another Gun Tragedy? – Check

The scene is not unique. In depressing fact, it’s not even that unusual.  Saturday, at a picnic in Wilson County, Tennessee Deputy Sheriff Daniel Fanning was in his bedroom, showing off some of his guns. Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said “Fanning was showing his weapons to a relative in a bedroom when the toddler came in and picked up a loaded gun on the bed.” The child discharged the firearm, killing the Deputy Sheriff’s 48 year old wife.

Sheriff Bryan continued “the guns were normally stored in a safe, and the deputy had placed one on a bed to get to another gun. Within seconds this small 4-year-old comes into the room, unbeknownst to the officer, and just picked up the gun and shot her.”

The Deputy, an eight year veteran was a trained law enforcement officer, and further he was trained as the School Resource Officer – the NRA’s favorite solution to gun violence in schools. One might imagine that a School Resource Officer would have training in how to handle weapons with children in the vicinity.

The Sheriff said he did not “anticipate that the shooting would affect Fanning’s job.”

The gun enthusiast community has a few phrases to address this type of event, including: ”it was a sad, unfortunate accident;” “it happens;” and; “it is the price of freedom.”

What they never say is: “the gun owner should be held responsible;” “the gun owner’s negligence is responsible for the victim’s death;” or; “we should do a better job as gun owners enforcing gun safety, through laws and punishment if necessary.”

If only this was an isolated incident, if only it was an outlier, if only it was so bizarre to ever imagine it happening again. But it is not. Over 600 people die each year from accidental discharge of firearms according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Another 16,000 are injured, but not killed from firearms accidents [this doesn’t include suicide attempts or homicide attempts]. Yet to the gun enthusiast community, 600 yearly deaths and 16,000 injuries are chalked up to “it happens” or “it is the price of freedom.” That is lazy thinking. It chooses to ignore the problem rather than face it.

Pie chart with fire arms injuries 2003-2007

When gun owners have to face accidental deaths and injuries, for the very largest majority, they must face themselves and they don’t want their character, or perceived “responsible” owners, shown in a bad light. That would require a reasoned response to the problem, not an obstructionist dogma that refuses to address ANY solutions to gun violence, intentional or accidental.

It is past time to address the foolish notion that gun owners are “responsible.” Some gun owners are extremely responsible…some should not be allowed to own a stick. The first step in solving the problem is accepting that there is a problem.

And the band played on.


McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.

You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip.