ONE SHOT! A Child Fatality – Gun Safes and Parent Education Save Lives
As a father, and like the majority of fathers, I wake every day and think about my children, knowing I am going to be able to talk to them, maybe even give them some useful advice, sometimes hear them tell me I’m a dinosaur and above all know they are there to cuddle and love. My greatest fear and I’m sure I speak for all parents who love their children is that one of my kids should pass away before me.
To some, articles on accidental gun deaths and injuries to children and the associated appeals for gun safety is a recurring theme that has been done so often it no longer has any impact for readers. For families that have experienced the tragedy of child gun deaths and injuries this complacency about gun safety can never be tolerated. Nor can it be tolerated until we stop seeing newspaper headlines like the Associated Press article posted on 14th March 2012.
“Death of Washington boy third gun accident in 3 weeks”
It is only March 2012 and here we have the tragic story of a three year old that shot himself in the head with a gun left in his parent’s car. Police said the death of the three year old highlights the need for a greater awareness of firearm safety and for people to secure guns. This was the third accidental child shooting in three weeks two of which have been fatal. The week before a seven year old girl was killed when a sibling found and fired a gun left unattended in a car and a in February an eight year old girl was critically wounded when a gun fired inside the backpack of a 9-year-old boy as he put it on a desk.
One shot from an unsecured firearm and family life is turned upside down. The reverberations from that single fatal shot are not confined to the unimaginable guilt and grief experienced within the four walls of the family home, but has serious psychological, economic, and social consequences on the child’s friends, families, and communities. The occurrence of that one shot can often be traced back to parents incorrectly assuming their child is educated about gun safety, misconceptions about children’s ability to tell the difference between a real gun and toy gun and a belief their child knows not to handle a real gun.
M.S. Hardy in his article, ‘A firearm safety program for children: They just can’t say no’, noted; ‘It is difficult to persuade children and adolescents to stay away from guns or behave responsibly around them. Young children and those in elementary school frequently lack the ability to judge their probable risk of injury, identify hazardous situations, spot ways to prevent injury, or apply safety lessons they have learned in a classroom to the real world.’
In one experiment preschool children and their parents attended a session in which a police officer discussed the dangers of guns and asked children to promise never to touch one. After the session, the children were videotaped playing in a room where toy and real guns were hidden. Despite their promises, the children who had attended the class found and played with real guns at virtually the same rate as children who had received no instruction. Compounding this problem are studies that show 85% of parents who own guns do not practice safe gun storage.
What this type of research does indicate is that gun safety education aimed solely at children is not the answer, but rather identifies the need for a layered approach to gun safety education that not only includes gun safety education for parents but also for friends and acquaintances that have guns in their house. Keeping children safe from gun accidents starts at home. If you have a gun store it unloaded in a gun safe or pistol safe, store ammunition separate to guns and continually reinforce children with the message that guns are not toys and are NOT to be touched.