One again we are slapped in the face with the reality of statistics. Last week in Warner Robins a 4-year-old boy found a gun, we don’t know exactly where, but it was somewhere inside the car where he and three other children were riding. We don’t know if it was in the glove compartment or the handbag of the woman who had left the children unattended in the car while she went into a restaurant to pick up food.
What we do know is, the child found the weapon and shot himself in his leg while she was in the restaurant. As of this writing, he was being treated for his injuries in the intensive care unit of Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta.
That’s the good news, because it could have been so much worse. A millimeter or two or three at any angle could have meant the young boy or one of the other children could have become one of the 1,287 statistics a study released in June from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified as children who die each year due to gun violence.
As it is, he did become one of the 5,790 American children each year to receive emergency room attention for a gun-related injury. And according to the report that looked at data from 2012 to 2014, the Warner Robins child became part of the 21 percent of injured children who shot themselves or others — unintentionally.
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Before proponents of gun rights fly into a fit, this is not an anti-gun editorial. This Editorial Board believes in our Constitution’s Second Amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court. However, it is easy to see there are a few flaws in the reasoning behind those who advocate for what is being called “Constitutional Carry,” the ability of every citizen to carry a firearm without license or permit.
We do believe the right to bear arms, if a citizen chooses to do so, carries with it a tremendous responsibility — and a set of liabilities. Each citizen, particularly those with children, needs to know what those liabilities are and weigh the odds.
Certainly, a firearm gives one the sense that they can protect themselves and their family should such a situation arise. And yes, in today’s world, those situations occur. But what also can occur, according to the CDC report is that 19 children are rushed to an emergency room daily with a gun-related injury. While 53 percent of the deaths of children are due to homicides, 38 percent are suicides and 6 percent are unintentional.
Guns are inanimate objects. They can’t load their own ammunition; they can’t pull their own triggers and they can’t put themselves out of reach from young hands who believe everything they touch is a toy waiting to be examined and played with. No, that’s up to gun owners.
While the majority of gun owners do a fine job of keeping their weapons safe, there are those who are not responsible, and just like the majority of drivers obey traffic laws there are some that make everyone understand why there is a need for licensing before someone can get behind the wheel of something that can propel itself, and passengers, down a highway at 80 miles an hour. Why is it so hard to wrap our minds around the need for training before someone can get a permit to own a weapon that can propel a 9 mm bullet at 1,300 feet a second?
During training, new gun owners can be reminded that just like there is liability when one causes a automobile accident, they face consequences if they use their weapons improperly. We are not suggesting new laws. There are plenty on the books already, but as rights are expanded where licensed gun owners can carry their weapons, the other side of the coin should be shown should a mistake be made.
Unfortunately, when a gun is discharged improperly in the wrong direction and a bullet hits someone unintended, lives change. It’s not a mere fender-bender an auto body shop can fix.
In the case of the Warner Robins child, charges have yet to be filed. We aren’t here to second guess the Warner Robins Police Department, but unfortunately this type of incident is too often looked at as an accident rather than careless handling of a deadly weapon. If there were more bite applied when such incidents occur, maybe there would be fewer acts of carelessness?