My mother, always trying to help along my budding journalism
career, sent me this text yesterday: "There's a story around
here about a 2-year-old who found a loaded gun, played with it and
shot himself in the head. You know, just in case you need a 'guns
are not for 2-year-olds' story."
I was, in fact, looking for just such a story, and my native
central Pennsylvania obliged.
According to local police, the boy found a
loaded .22 caliber handgun in his parents' closet in their home in
Manchester, about an hour north of Baltimore, and shot himself in
The safety was on and the boy's father, who owned the gun, has
not been charged with anything, though police said the
investigation is continuing.
But this was the second fatal accidental shooting
of the new year in the area -- an 8-year-old boy shot himself Jan.
9 in Allentown -- and, as my mom pointed out, another reminder of
perhaps that most obvious of parenting truths: Guns are not for
Parents devour the latest recall reports on
strollers and playsets, cover
outlets with plugs and place gates across stairs. Those are
important steps to take (and we're happy to help -- check out these
tips for rooting out hidden dangers in your home).
So remind me again why there was a loaded gun hidden under a
pile of clothes in the closet, within the reach of a toddler?
About a third of U.S. households have a gun, a drop
from about half in the early 1970s, and in all likelihood, most gun
owners follow the laws about locking. But guns should not be in
places where children can reach them. Period. I don't care if the
safety is on (which was the case in the boy's death) or if it's
unloaded (which was not the case).
Politics aside, it's a public safety issue. Pro-gun groups are
quick to point to studies showing that more children die each
year from bicycle accidents, sports injuries or drownings. All fair
points. But when these deaths are 100 percent
preventable, isn't that our responsibiities as parents?
We're required by law in most states to gate our pools and to make
our children wear bike helmets, and guns are no different.
And if you can't set aside the polices or see the
public-safety argument, you can at least lament the tragic loss of
a 2-year-old boy in Manchester, Penn.
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