Certain gun-related events affect us especially strongly, whichever side of the gun-rights debate we are on. The event often involves children who become the center of tragedies — caught in school shootings, in crossfire, or, what in some ways is worst, in their own acts performed innocently. A current example is the death, at the hands of a nine-year-old girl, of an instructor at the Bullets and Burgers Last Stop Arizona shooting range. We grieve for the instructor and his family, for the girl’s family, and in a particular way for the girl, who will grow up being the only person she knows who has killed another human being.
Of course, we’d address the problem in different ways. Many, in and beyond the medical profession, see every gun injury and death as a preventable “health issue” if only we applied the correct “public health” interventions. That’s a fancy name for the Left’s belief in government-imposed “remedies.” “Why would a shooting range allow a kid to handle an automatic weapon?” writes E. J. Montini at AZCentral.com. “Why would a parent? And, most importantly [my emphasis], why would a state?”
In 2011, among children up to age 14, only 74 died in firearm accidents. That’s just 2.3 percent of the 4,175 total accidental deaths, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control. Accidental firearm deaths in this age group have been rather steady since 1999, despite a near-doubling of gun purchases (as implied by the volume of NICS checks, a proxy for the numbers of purchases). The numbers of adults killed accidentally by children are harder to come by.
The frequency of serious gun accidents among children decreases as gun ownership increases. The reason for this has to be improved education for young people becoming acquainted with firearms — for example, the Eddie the Eagle GunSafe program sponsored by the National Rifle Association, and Project ChildSafe, sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
There is no medical or policy cure for mistakes in judgment by caring adults responsible for the welfare of children. There is every reason to ensure serious instruction, at home and on site, for anyone serious about using serious weapons. And those are actually anything that fires a projectile, can stab or slash, or break bones. We must simply teach our children well.
— Robert B. Young, M.D. is a psychiatrist in private practice in Pittsford, N.Y., and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.