"Lock them up. There are things that you can do," a Houston assistant police chief said last week after a 3-year-old boy fatally shot his 8-month-old baby brother in the family home.
The assistant chief was talking about guns, not the 3-year-old. Obviously.
This kind of disaster happens way, way, way too much. Last year at least 371 children stumbled across a loaded gun and fired, causing 143 deaths and 243 injuries. In one case, a 3-year-old shot himself to death with a pistol that had fallen out of the pocket of a member of his family — apparently while the adults were playing cards.
None of this has led to any significant change in the national attitude toward deadly weapons. Many Americans like to arm themselves to the teeth as protection from crime — and bleep over the danger that comes with all that hardware, especially in the hands of people who aren't really equipped to use it.
"Research shows that 39% of gun owners have no safety training," reports Everytown for Gun Safety, which thinks a lot about this sort of thing.
Now handling a gun properly, being capable of aiming it accurately, and following the guidelines for safe storage isn't easy. Kudos to the people who make the effort. But even they aren't necessarily going to be able to keep their cool in some sort of shooting crisis. You have to worry how many overoptimistically imagine that they can.
And what some of them will do in quieter moments. A majority of all gun deaths are suicides. One study found that in 2018, an average of 67 Americans shot themselves to death every day.
Given the deep downside of gun proliferation, it's remarkably easy to buy one legally. But some gun enthusiasts seem to regard any rules whatsoever as a betrayal of the Founding Fathers.
"Who do you think you are — to disarm Americans and leave them vulnerable?" our old friend Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado asked the House as members prepared to pass — by a narrow margin — two bills making very modest adjustments in our current, wildly inadequate, gun safety laws. Both are on their way to the Senate.
"I have to believe there's hope. Otherwise I'd have trouble coming to work in the morning," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Connecticut legislators have been among the nation's most dedicated gun safety crusaders, especially since 2012, when a disturbed 20-year-old killed his mother, grabbed the household assault rifle and two pistols, then marched off to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where he killed 26 people, 20 of them children.
We've had a lot of tragic gun-related headlines lately. The story of the baby's death was overshadowed by a crisis in Minnesota, where an officer yelling "Taser! Taser!" pulled the trigger on a man she'd stopped for expired tags. And, as the whole nation now knows, the Taser was actually a loaded gun.
"Holy s—!" the officer shouted in horror after she realized what she'd done. How many Americans do you think muttered the same thing when they first heard the story?
One partial answer to the problem of police shootings is regular, intensive instruction on how to handle a gun in a crisis. Most departments require at least an occasional trip to the shooting range for target practice, but, as Blumenthal notes, "that's not really training for how to react in an emergency situation," when things are moving fast and other people may already have their weapons drawn.
Given that there are close to 400 million guns in the land, many of them loaded, it should be very clear that our greatest domestic security challenge is carving the number down and making sure the people who possess them are responsible citizens.
It's a heavy lift. "The government is never going to know what weapons I own," declaimed Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas. "Let me be clear about that, it's not gonna happen. We have a God-given right to defend our families, defend our state, and defend ourselves against tyranny, and we will do that."
Yeah, blame God.
The New York Times