Take Two #25: I like guns, but guns and kids don't mix

By Kyra-lin Hom

Does anybody else feel like the Northwest is going crazy? For the last several weeks, I swear every time I turn around there is a new report of a local shooting, stabbing or sexual assault. And let's not forget that a good number of these cases involve minors. I can't find recent enough statistics for Washington State to guestimate whether this is a trend in actual instances or in instances reported, but regardless it has made me want to turn my radio dial on more than one occasion. I can understand why people might be getting a little jumpy.

A friend of mine also brought to bear another trend, that of finding everyone and anyone else to blame. I'm not necessarily talking about the wrong people being held legally responsible for an occurrence. Rather I am referring to the public's attitude. Case in point:

To update and reorient you, last week the 9-year old boy on probation for bringing a .45 caliber handgun to school and accidentally shooting a classmate was required by the judge to write a letter of apology to the hospitalized girl. Go judge! As the case stands now, the boy's mother and boyfriend are being held legally culpable. The mother, 34, is charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm. These counts are 1) owning a firearm despite her status as a convicted felon and 2) allowing her son access to the gun, which he grabbed – fully loaded – from her glove compartment. Her boyfriend, 50, is charged with only one count as he has no prior record. Both are pleading not guilty. Lying much?

All right, now that we have that covered, what prompted my and my friend's irritation with the blame game was a radio program, in which listeners were encouraged to call in and discuss this case. Where did the public decide to land their accusations? On the gun manufacturer. See the little girl was shot when the boy slammed his backpack down on his desk thus accidentally triggering the gun. Despite all the evidence pointing toward the failure of the adults to behave as either proper parents or citizens, the listeners decided that the gun shouldn't have gone off so easily. Therefore fault for the shooting itself lay with the people who built the gun in the first place.

Excuse me? This reveals both an internally justified aversion to blame and an ignorance about how guns are produced and sold and should be handled. Even if the mother and boyfriend had taken every precaution against the boy finding and stealing the gun, they are still to blame. That boy was in their care in a place where he had access to a deadly weapon he didn't understand.

When I was 4-years old (give or take), instead of spending the day at daycare, I was watched by a stay at home mom with a son around my age. One day, he wanted to show me something cool. So, with his mom elsewhere in the house, he took me into his parents' closet and showed me his dad's handgun. The memory is a little vague, but I distinctly remember the brown wooden box on the floor in the back of the closet. He wanted to play with it. I wouldn't let him. I wouldn't even touch it. I made him put the gun back, and we left the room.

That evening I told my parents what had happened, and my dad called the boy's father. After allowing the other man to expound on how well secured his guns were and how his son knew to never touch them, my dad finally asked if the other man was at all curious how we knew he even had guns in the first place. The guns were out of the house that evening.

Believe it or not, I actually like guns. I'm about as fascinated by them as your average male and am a decent shot up to 60 feet. When I think back on that moment, staring at the wooden lock box, I wish I could pinpoint exactly what it was that made me back away. I think it was the fact that my dad and I had talked about guns before. I knew what they were and what they did, but much more importantly he told me that I would learn how to use them when I was older and when I was ready. I knew that I wasn't supposed to touch them yet, and I had a very healthy respect for how dangerous that gun was and for the fact that neither myself nor that boy had any inkling how to safely handle it yet.

Children are curious, and guns are a constant object of power and allure especially in cities where they aren't normally a common feature of life. The problem with having guns and children in the same house is that the more secure the gun is from the child, the less useful it is as a self-defense weapon. I'm not saying don't own guns, but I am saying think. Weigh the consequences. Know what you are risking. The responsibility is on all of our shoulders because as much as we seem to think it should, the law can't bully us into being good parents or guardians. It's your choice.

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