Another ‘Responsible’ Gun Owner Leaves Loaded Rifle Out, 5 Year Old Son Finds It, Kills Baby Sister

Kids and guns… image @NMPASI

Kids and guns… image @NMPASI

A five-year-old shot and killed his baby sister on Tuesday while playing with a .22 caliber rifle. According to Lex18.com, the NBC news affiliate for Lexington, KY, the incident happened at about 1 p.m. The Cumberland County coroner pronounced the little girl dead after she was taken to the Cumberland County Hospital. An autopsy is scheduled for later today.

This is hardly an isolated incident. In Greenville, S.C., in February, a child was shot in the head and killed when he and his sister mistook a loaded pink gun for a toy.

Earlier in April, in New Jersey, a six-year-old boy was shot and killed by a four-year-old handling a rifle.


Forty-eight hours before that, in Tennessee, a sheriff’s deputy was showing off his guns to a relative when his young child came into the room, picked up a loaded gun from the bed, and accidentally killed the sheriff’s wife. In that story, police said that the guns were normally stored in a safe, but that the deputy hadn’t seen his kid come in and pick the gun up, and by the time he could react, it was too late.

Back in December, a father accidentally shot his child while trying to put a loaded handgun in his car’s console.

And in Oregon, also earlier this month, a nine-year-old girl was shot in the head while her mother’s boyfriend was cleaning a handgun.

Some believe that gun accidents are rare, statistically speaking. However, according to David Frum, in 2007 there were between 15,000 and 19,000 accidental shootings, more than 600 of which were fatal.

Furthermore, the number of people either injured or killed in accidental shootings is more than the number of people killed or injured in fires. And 200 people in the U.S. go to the ER every single day with gunshot wounds. Not every month, or every year, every day.

 With statistics like these, it’s really a wonder that more isn’t done. And yet, that’s what we see. Most states don’t require a safety course to purchase a gun, though there are some that do require one before a gun owner can obtain a concealed carry permit. The term “responsible gun owner” gets bandied about but, truth is, the gun-owning community doesn’t actually seem to realize how dangerous – indeed, how lethal – guns actually are.

As individuals, yes, many gun owners do have a deep understanding of that and are truly responsible. Many do keep their guns unloaded when not in use; they do ensure that they’re locked safely away. But how to explain so many accidental deaths, particularly of children? Simply put, when put together as a group, as a community, they don’t get it. According to an essay written by Dan Baum and published in the Wall Street Journal, the worst hands guns can fall into are the hands of children and depressed teenagers. Not criminals. Because of that, Baum says, the gun community is highly irresponsible because they’re so completely focused on criminals and vilifying the government that the community doesn’t see the forest for the trees; they don’t spend much time working with each other to become a more responsible community of people.

Children get their hands on guns left out by unthinking adults in the house and, in every accidental shooting, that gun left lying carelessly around was also loaded. As Baum points out, children can’t go to a dealer, or a gun show, and buy a gun. So these injuries and deaths happen because law-abiding citizens are unconscionably careless with their guns.

He believes the best way to stop these accidental deaths is to make it so socially unacceptable to leave a loaded gun where anybody can have access to it that nobody would think of doing it anymore. Kind of like lighting up a cigarette in someone else’s house these days without their expressed permission. That used to be generally acceptable, though on a case-by-case basis, obviously. Today, society considers it incredibly rude.

He makes a good point; because unless there are impossibly stiff penalties for a shooting ultimately caused by leaving your loaded gun out, laws won’t work as a deterrent. Though if the penalties were sufficiently steep, like a long time in prison and a ridiculously hefty fine, it could work.

You can read Baum’s full article here.

The bottom line is, there is something that must be done to prevent these accidental shootings, as well as, of course, mass shooting. Requiring safety courses, written and practical exams, and renewable licensing would probably help, but too many are convinced of the various slippery slopes around those solutions for them to ever become reality. Perhaps, just perhaps, Dan Baum is onto something. The issue with that is, it would take far longer than many are willing to give.


eve Rika Christensen is an experienced writer and loves debating politics. Engage with her and see more of her work by following her on Facebook and Twitter, and check out her blog, They Need To Go.