Perhaps no stories are more difficult to write and read than those about young children harmed through no fault of their own.
Sometimes this is due to health issues, other times accidents or crimes. No matter the cause, it’s excruciating each and every time. This week we reported one such incident, in which a Hermiston toddler was shot and injured by a sibling, just 7 years old, who got control of a loaded gun and fired it.
It’s a devastating story. The longterm prognosis for the 2-year-old boy is unknown, the bullet from the Beretta handgun having struck him in his head. No charges have been filed in the case thus far.
But it reminds us of the value of actual gun control. Not some government conspiracy to take weapons away from American citizens, but the call for personal responsibility over your own firearms. In other words: Gun control as controlling your guns and not letting them get into the hands of children, those you don’t know, or those who wish to do others harm.
Control of your own guns, both in your hand and in your home, is critical to the fight against needless gun deaths and injuries.
Centers for Disease Control estimated 77 children died from accidental gun discharges in 2015, the latest data on record, but the Associated Press counted 141 cases that year reported in the media.
How do we reduce these unnecessary, tragic deaths? One simple way is via gun locks — simple devices that should be used in every household, especially homes with young children. The locks keep a gun from being fired as long as they are affixed. A key is kept in a separate place. It’s unknown if a gun lock in this specific situation was used or would have stopped this tragedy — but in general they are a critical safety tool.
Gun safes are critical, too. Storing ammunition in a safe place out of the reach of children, and in a separate place from where weapons are kept, should go without saying. And it’s ridiculous that we even have to mention this, but guns should never be left loaded, in the open for anyone to grab. If doing so leads to serious injury or death, it should be prosecuted as a crime. We must also add responsible cleaning and maintenance of firearms, and gun safety at the shooting range and in the field.
At the base level, gun control is predicated on self control — teaching the value and responsibility of owning and using firearms.
“It goes without saying that this is an incredibly horrible incident for the involved family, and the officers who responded, the medical professionals who treated the child, and the community as a whole,” the Hermiston Police Department stated in its initial press release. “If you own firearms, we urge you to store them in a safe manner to prevent unauthorized access.”
That means you. Do it now. Gun locks are available for free at Hermiston PD and the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office in Pendleton.