Toddlers around the U.S. have been getting their hands on loaded guns and shooting people an average of once a week so far in 2015. Many of those incidents have been tsk-tsked and shrugged away as tragic and unfortunate accidents, but there is no explanation for these tragedies other than serious negligence and carelessness on the part of the adults responsible for these children and these guns.
According to The Washington Post‘s Christopher Ingraham, so far in 2015, at least 43 toddlers under the age of three have gotten their hands on loaded guns and shot somebody. In 31 of those cases, the toddlers shot themselves, and 13 of them died from their wounds. 12 toddlers shot other people, two of whom died. That makes 43 people shot by toddlers, and 15 people killed by toddlers with guns so far this year. Those numbers do not include the devastating number of preschool-aged children killed every year by adults and older children with guns.
Yes, accidents happen. A person can’t be everywhere at once. But there is no reasonable situation in which a child under the age of three should ever be able to get his or her hands on a loaded gun. If that happens, an adult somewhere has been severely negligent in his or her responsibilities, and in many cases these adults should be facing charges.
These are horrendous and tragic incidents, but they are completely preventable, and completely the fault of whoever was supposed to be taking care of the child and/or the gun when they happened.
Of course the toddlers are not to blame. They are toddlers. Their love of messing with objects and lack of understanding of consequences is a well-known fact. The other day I accidentally left a new container of cereal within reach of my toddler (she can reach farther than I thought she could), and she dumped the whole thing over the floor. Oops. As far as I am concerned, I made that mess, because I am the person who left the cereal near the toddler. It was stupid to leave an open container of cereal near a toddler. Leaving a gun near a toddler should be criminal.
There are many ways to keep a gun secure and to prevent small children from getting hold of them. As The Washington Post points out, there is “smart gun” technology that prevents guns from being fired by anyone but their owners. Others have suggested legislation that would require guns at home to be kept in locked storage, which would make it less likely that a small child could find one and play with it.
We should also stop treating these occurrences like accidents, because they are completely preventable. If an adult leaves a gun anyplace where a toddler can get to it, that adult should be culpable for whatever happens afterwards.
(Photo: Alexander Smushkov/Getty Images)