One of the most frequent anti-gun arguments centers around “accidental” shooting deaths of children. Those opposed to gun rights argue for gun bans, on the theory that having a gun in the same house as a child is a recipe for disaster. That is simply not the case. Allow me to explain, using a recent example from Chicago:
The shooting death of 5 year old Jonathan Jackson
A 17-year-old boy was charged today in connection with the death of his 5-year-old nephew who was shot while the boy and his twin brother were playing in their bedroom in their Lawndale home Monday evening. Antoine Heard was charged with one count of endangering a child causing death, police said this morning. Police said Heard turned himself in after an investigation determined he brought the weapon into the home. In a court hearing midday today, Heard was ordered held in lieu of $250,000 bail. Prosecutors said he had an extensive juvenile record, including three convictions for possession of a controlled substance. Heard is a brother of the twins’ mother, prosecutors and family said. Heard told authorities he found the weapon in an alley one to two weeks ago and kept stashed it in his sister’s bedroom, behind a television set and underneath the boys’ clothing and toys, Lippert said.
Why this was negligence, rather than an “accident”
I will start by saying that the family of the deceased boy has my deepest condolences. My goal in writing this article is not to assign blame, but rather to discuss the situation out of the hope that others will learn and avoid repeating such a tragedy in the future, thereby saving other lives. With that said:
The difference between “accidental” and “negligent” goes far beyond just semantics. “Accident” refers to an event that occurred despite the use of proper care and skill. Accidents are not anyone’s fault. “Negligence” refers to a failure to exercise the proper care and skill that a reasonable person would have exercised. Negligence is the fault of a person. In this case, based upon the facts reported in the news, it appears that one person left a loaded gun hidden in the children’s toys and clothing, which is incredibly negligent. The result was that one 5 year old boy is dead, an older relative is facing felony charges, and the dead boy’s twin brother will be scarred for life.
The gun, which is a mechanically simple tool, is not to blame. Instead, as is often the case, it is the actions of a human being that are at issue.
Why the solution is not a gun ban
The gun control lobby uses cases like this to argue for stricter gun laws. However, as is often the case when a child is shot, many existing gun laws failed to prevent the tragedy, and there is no reason to believe that one more law would have made a difference.
In this case, based upon the facts asserted in the news report, the gun was unlawfully acquired by a 17 year old, who had an “extensive juvenile record.” That 17 year old then allegedly hid the loaded gun in with the young children’s toys and clothing. In Illinois, it is unlawful for a minor, such as this 17 year old, to have a handgun. It is also unlawful for anyone to possess a handgun without a FOID card, which this 17 year old also seems to have lacked. It is also a crime to leave a gun where a child can find and misuse it. Given the 17 year old’s “extensive juvenile record,” it is also likely that a court has ordered him to refrain from possessing a firearm. Yet none of these existing laws prevented this tragedy. The simple fact is that gun control laws only regulate the conduct of law abiding people (who weren’t going to misuse guns in the first place). Criminals, by definition, don’t obey the law, and therefore don’t hesitate to break gun control laws.
Instead of a gun ban, what is needed is gun safety education for both adults children. Gun safety education for adults will help prevent those adults from leaving loaded guns in dangerous places, while the gun safety education for children will help prevent children from playing with a gun, should they ever find one. Sadly, there are individuals who ignore these facts and the relevant studies, and instead believe that the answer is to make gun and the discussion of guns into a taboo topic. When that happens, tragedy is the result.
Those seeking more information on children and guns, insofar as home defense and the risk to children, are encouraged to read this other article, as well as the “related articles” shown below on this page.