Monday 6 May 2013

Careless  shootings

There is no acceptable excuse for careless shootings. The adults who are indirectly or directly responsible for these shootings are outright stupid. Their common excuse is, “I didn’t know that the gun was loaded.” The way to prevent that kind of shooting is to check the weapon right after you have picked it up and never have your finger anywhere near the trigger.  I am now going to give you examples of stupidity that just boggles the mind with respect to gun owners who should never have guns in the first place.

Careless shootings by children

There are thousands of incidences of injury and wrongful death by careless gunfire in the United States each year. In some cases it occurs because adults leave loaded guns lying around the house for children of all ages to pick up. Research shows that children as young as 2 years old have seen gun play and violence in movies, cartoons and on television often enough that they are able to emulate the behavior of pointing and shooting—all without any knowledge of the consequences of their action.

Keeping guns out of the reach of children is paramount and yet there are many gun owners who are careless in this respect. Many times children, teenagers and adults are playing with handguns at home thinking that the guns are not loaded, when in fact the guns are loaded. Every day in the United States alone, approximately five children are injured or killed on a nationwide basis as a result of the careless use of handguns. The primary cause of child-involved shooting rests with the fact that children find loaded handguns in the home and of course, natural curiosity leads them down the road to towards the disaster waiting to happen.  Here are some examples.

In May, 2013, as Stephanie Sparks was cleaning her kitchen, her 5-year-old son, Kristian, began playing with a 22 cal. rifle he was given last year as a 4-year-old. She stepped out onto the front porch and suddenly she heard the gun go off.  Her son had aimed the gun at his 2-year-old sister and pulled the trigger. She was shot in the chest and died. Now I ask you these three rhetorical questions.

The first is, “Why did the boy’s parents buy their four-year-old a rifle?” In rural southern Kentucky, some children get their first guns even before they start their first grade in elementary school. The Cumberland County Coroner Gary White said, “Down in Kentucky where we’re from, you know, guns are passed down from generation to generation. You start at a young age with guns for hunting and everything.” I guess when he said, everything; that includes playing cops and robbers with real guns also. Cumberland County Judge Executive, John Phelps said, “It’s a normal way of life, and it’s not just rural Kentucky, it’s rural America—hunting and shooting and sport fishing. It starts at an early age. There’s probably not a household in this county that doesn’t have a gun.”

I don’t have a problem with parents teaching their children how to fire a rifle however; I think the lessons should begin when they are at least ten years of age and not when they are four or five.

In this particular case, the rifle was made by a company that sells guns specifically for children in which its slogan is, “My first rifle”.  The colors of the gun range from plain brown to hot pink to royal blue to multi-color swirls. The last three colour-schemes are the kind of colours that are applied to toys. But rifles that can shoot bullets are not toys and they certainly should not be given to small children who would obviously believe that the guns are merely toys to play with which was apparent to the five-year-old.

What about the stupidity of the parents in this case? The rifle was placed in a corner of the home with a bullet in the chamber. Now, how stupid can someone really be?  Well, that question is easy to answer. They were totally stupid. Was the boy stupid? Of course not! How did he know that his toy had a real bullet in the chamber? When he aimed the loaded rifle at his two-year-old sister, and pulled the trigger, he had no idea that he would actually fire a real bullet at her.

His parents were as stupid as I was when I was sixteen-years old in 1950. I owned a 22-cal rifle and accidentally left a bullet in the chamber. When a friend of mine came to visit me and picked up the rifle and aimed it at my chest, I told him to check the chamber to see if a live round was in it. There was. I was stupid to have left a live round in the chamber. Had I not asked him to check the chamber, you wouldn’t be reading this article.

Back in late 1940s, my aunt and uncle lived in Creston, British Columbia with their two children. Their next-door neighbor was a game warden and he had guns in his house and one of his guns was a revolver. One day when he and his wife were out of the house, one of their sons who was nine, took the pistol from a shelf in the closet and used it as part of his game of cops and robbers with a neighbourhood child. Unbeknown to him, the gun was loaded when he aimed it at the child’s head and pulled the trigger. The child was killed instantly. The father was fired from his job and he and his wife and children moved out of Creston.                                                                     

In January 1988, 14-year-old Aaron Fultz was critically wounded after foolishly being shot in his head by a friend. They found the .44 magnum revolver in the house of the friend's brother in Deer Park, a Houston suburb. The boy who fired the gun didn’t know that it was loaded.  

Five other children playing with pistols were shot over that same time-period in the Houston area. Three of the youths died. Two years previous in a two-month period there, there were 13 accidental shootings involving children, six of whom died in Houston.

Two adults faced charges after a 3-year-old boy accidentally shot himself in January 2012 with a gun that the boy found under a mattress.  One of the children told police, “My daddy always keeps the gun underneath the mattress.” Jacksonville, Florida police said that that Barbara Anne Powell, 22, and Gregory Eugene Chisholm, 24, were charged with one count each of child neglect and culpable negligence.

On Christmas day in 2012, in North Memphis, Tennessee, a 10-year-old boy died in what police are describing as an accidental fatal gunshot wound to the abdomen. The boy’s older brother, 12, carelessly shot him after they were playing with an unsecured handgun.

Sensational shootings often draw attention to the carelessness of some gun owners. To a great many people, there is something deeply troubling in the numbing frequency of incidents like the ones I have just described. 

In Canada, we have strict laws with respect to the ownership and storage of guns. With respect to ownership, any child under ten cannot own a gun. For the storage of all non-restricted, restricted and prohibited firearms, the gun must be unloaded and not readily accessible to ammunition. Ammunition can be stored with the gun only if the ammunition is in a separate, secure and locked container. Non-restricted firearms do need to be locked in a container or room unless they have been made inoperable with a locking device or by removing the bolt or bolt carrier. Further, to be given a permit to own a gun, the prospective gun owner must take a test to determine if the person understands the importance of gun safety.

Careless shootings by adults

Careless gunfire is just as possible when adults are handling firearms. An adult being experienced or inexperienced doesn’t really matter because there are some adults who are simply prone to making really stupid mistakes. Careless shootings can occur from horseplay such as when someone is drinking and picks up a gun, points and shoots it and the bullet hits another person.  Another common example of a careless shooting is when one friend is playing ‘chicken’ with another while believing that the person firing the gun far away from a person, actually carelessly shoots him or her.

In March 2012, Craig A. Johnston was charged in the shooting death of a 13-year-old Wauseon boy. Authorities filed a charge of negligent homicide against the 35-year-old who was the owner of the shotgun when he stupidly fired the gun and killed the 7th grader.

Antonio D. Handley, 27, of Evansville, was wounded in the thigh when a handgun in his pocket inadvertently discharged in February 2013.

In May, 2008, the police chief of Riverdale, Utah, foolishly shot himself in the ankle while he was waving a loaded pistol and being careless in doing so.  According to a student who was attending his class to qualify for a concealed-weapons permit, “We were told the gun is the chief's personal sidearm, but it looked to me like he didn't know anything about the gun.” That was a valid observation. It reminds me of an event that took place in the Canadian navy in the early 1950s. A pretty officer was showing his trainees how not to load a four-inch gun. He told them that once the shell is placed in the breech, they had to pull their hand away from the closing of the breach otherwise they will lose their hand. He then showed them how to load the shell into the breach but he didn’t withdraw his hand fast enough and the breech quickly closed and in an instant, it severed his hand from his wrist. Another student seeking certification to carry a concealed weapon; said he was surprised that Chief Dave Hansen was using a loaded gun to show how it worked.

In some parts of Turkey it is the custom to recklessly fire guns in the air during weddings. In August 2010, three family members at a wedding in Turkey had been shot dead by the groom firing an AK-47 rifle in celebration. The groom, Tevfik Altin, lost control of his rifle while firing it and he ended up spraying his guests with bullets which then killed his father and two aunts and injuring six others.

Three people in the Philippines died due to stray bullets fired to welcome the arrival of the New Year 2011. When the Iraqi football team defeated Vietnam in 2007's Asia Cup, three people were killed in Baghdad amid widespread gunshots as fans celebrated. Celebratory gunfire in Kuwait after the end of the Gulf War in 1991 was blamed for 20 deaths.                               

In the United States, the careless use of firearms are the fourth leading cause of deaths among children 5 to 14 years old and the third leading cause of unwarranted deaths among 15- to 24-year-olds. Across all age groups, such shootings are the sixth leading cause of potential years of life lost because of those stupid shootings.

You noticed that I never referred to these shootings as being accidental shootings. There is no such thing as an accidental shooting.  There is a difference between having an unavoidable accident and being negligent and reckless that goes far beyond just semantics. An unavoidable accident refers to an event that we can’t foresee despite the use of proper care and skill.  Such an accident occurs when a landslide hits a car when it is too late to avoid the oncoming landslide and the car is pushed over a cliff. Accidents are generally not anyone’s fault. Negligent and reckless events on the other hand refer to a failure to exercise the proper care and skill that a reasonable person should exercise. Negligence and recklessness is the fault of a person who drives a car while making a phone call on his or her cell phone. Negligence and recklessness are what happens when gun owners, who know that projectiles from guns can be deadly, choose to disregard the basics of gun safety.




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