In the ongoing discussion over gun rights and control measures, the discourse often pits guns as a component of violence and crime against guns as a means of hunting, recreation and self-protection.
One side points to the devastating number of shooting deaths that occur each year in the United States. The other points to the security of keeping a gun handy in the bedside table or in the glove compartment.
But any discussion of gun safety should also include a topic that we might all agree is so horrible as to demand action: that little children with access to guns too often accidentally kill themselves or other people.
As Post and Courier reporter Jennifer Hawes described in a report last week, a tragic number of South Carolina children arrive at the emergency room with a bullet in their brain or a gunshot wound to the face. Or they pull the trigger while “playing” and kill a sibling or a parent, to be haunted by the accident for life.
But even though 12 children under age 12 and one adult in South Carolina died in unintentional shootings that involved children from May 2016 to May 2018, our lawmakers refuse to act. This remains one of the deadliest states for children.
Reasonable measures could be taken to mitigate the problem.
Child advocates aren’t asking for additional restrictions on the sale or ownership of guns. They simply request that laws better protect children from accessing guns and provide stricter penalties for those who fail to keep children safe from them.
A parent who puts locks on cabinet doors and covers on electrical outlets to keep children from harm should certainly see the merit in putting gun locks on weapons that children might handle. And a parent who fails to do so should expect to be punished.
We have laws mandating the use of seat belts and requiring background checks on people who work with children in daycare, schools and churches. We should have laws requiring that gun-owning parents keep deadly weapons away from their kids, who might be too young to understand that loaded guns are not to be touched.
The Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance also would like stiffer penalties for people who possess guns illegally. It makes sense that even the staunchest of gun rights advocates would like to see such bad eggs weeded out.
Yet South Carolina lawmakers continue to resist even the most obvious gun measures, such as requiring that guns in homes with small children remain secured out of reach. In refusing to act, they fail the youngest and most vulnerable in the state.
Perhaps they should hear from the parents of an 8-year-old in Orangeburg County who shot himself with a pistol his father kept in his car, or a 3-year-old in Anderson County who shot himself with a gun he found in his family’s SUV, or a 6-year-old in Spartanburg who shot and killed his 4-year-old sister.
Sadly, they cannot hear from the father of a 2-year-old in Columbia who shot himself with a gun he found in his home. The grieving father took his own life.