Politics & Policy

A Child and an Uzi

Video-camera image from the Bullets and Burgers gun range.
Serious gun accidents among children have fallen as gun ownership has risen.

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?”

Indeed, some states have laws that prohibit providing firearms to children. Of course, such laws can also prohibit children from being trained in the most important aspect of gun safety: how to use guns. As a public-policy question, how large is the problem of children firing Uzis on automatic? There is one other case in the past six years of a child killing someone (himself) with automatic fire. More tragedy, but two incidents in six years do not an epidemic make, not even a trend.

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.

In the two heartbreaking accidental deaths resulting from children’s use of automatic firearms since 2008, there were some common factors. Both children demonstrated too late their inability to control these powerful weapons on automatic fire. In each case, we might wonder why the instructor did not steady the weapon by gripping it as the child held it. The parents are, and will always feel, ultimately responsible for the safety of their children and for judging their abilities as they develop. While we can learn from our hindsight critique of adult mistakes in these two cases, let’s recognize that a great many children (and adults) have emerged unscathed from their experience of safely, successfully shooting automatic weapons in these venues.

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.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Strzok by a Farce

An investigation is one of two things: a search for the truth, or a farce. The House is conducting a farce. That fact was on full display during ten hours of testimony by Peter Strzok, the logorrheic lawman who steered the FBI’s Clinton-emails and Trump–Russia probes. The principal question before the ... Read More
Elections

Democrats Are Dumping Moderates

The activist base of the Democratic party is lurching left fast enough that everyone should pay attention. Activists matter because their turnout in low-turnout primaries and caucuses almost propelled leftist Bernie Sanders to victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Last month, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated New ... Read More
Film & TV

Stalin at the Movies

Toward the end of The Death of Stalin, two Communist Party bosses size up Joseph Stalin’s immediate successor, Georgy Malenkov. “Can we trust him?” one asks. “Can you ever really trust a weak man?” his comrade answers. Good question. Last week brought the news that the head of Shambhala ... Read More
World

‘The Warning Lights Are Blinking Red Again’

One of President Trump’s outstanding appointments has been Dan Coats, his director of national intelligence. Coats is a former House member, former senator, and former ambassador to Germany. He is a Hoosier (i.e., from Indiana). Whether he plays basketball, I don’t know. At Wheaton College, he played soccer. ... Read More