A 2-year-old boy was killed in Corsicana, Texas last week after he shot himself in the head with a handgun that he found in his father's bedroom. His father was standing nearby in the walk-in closet at the time.
This gut-wrenching news follows quickly on the heels of two other tragic gun accidents involving toddlers. Last Wednesday, A Tampa, Fla. 3-year-old shot himself with a handgun he found in his uncle's backpack. And on May 1, a 2-year-old girl was killed after being shot in the chest by her brother with a rifle he had received as a gift. That emphasis is all mine. The last 5-year-old I gave a gift to got Zoobles. Another Florida 6-year-old is thankfully recovering after her 13-year-old brother shot her last Saturday.
I actually had to pause after typing each sentence of that last paragraph and take a deep breath before moving on. As a parent, as a teacher of toddlers and as a human being these stories cut to the core, not only for their violence and for the incredible grief that these families no doubt are suffering, but for the fact that each incident was completely avoidable.
In its Protect Children, Not Guns 2012 report, the Children's Defense Fund analyzed the most recent gun statistics involving children from 2008 and 2009. I am going to pull out a few significant statistics, but I urge anyone interested in the safety of America's children to go read it in its entirety. It says:
5,740 children were killed by guns in 2008 and 2009, which is more than all U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
173 preschoolers were killed in 2008 and 2009, which is almost twice the number of law enforcement officers killed in the same period of time.
The number of children injured by guns every year could fill 1,375 classrooms.
39 percent of children interviewed knew where their parents kept their guns
If we are going to live in a country where every third person is going to carry a gun, can we please agree to lock them up properly every minute that they are not in use?
Additionally, the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence reports that one-third of American households have a gun and 50 percent of those do not lock up their guns.
Parents of toddlers spend 90 percent of their day keeping their children alive. They hover, they chase. They plug outlets and lock toilets. They cut food into tiny little pieces and stick pads onto sharp corners. The put gates on steps and buckle kids in and out of car seats. If we are going to live in a country where every third person is going to carry a gun, can we please agree to lock them up properly every minute that they are not in use?
"These are isolated incidents," someone is guaranteed to say. But they aren't. Each article I clicked on led to another which led to another. There were 88 children under 5 killed by guns in 2008. Eighty-five in 2009. I agree that sometimes local stories are sensationalized by the national media, but in this case I think that they should report every single one until we wake up and start listening. After all, a recent study found that guns kill twice as many kids as cancer.
In the majority of these stories, these guns were licensed and legally purchased. Does that make this a gun debate issue or a parenting issue? I think it's both.