In my August 14th opening column, I mentioned the tragedies involving children and guns are the ones that bother me the most. If you have a problem with being spoken to like an adult, you might want to turn the page now. This is a very serious subject and I’m about to get serious with you.
I found some terrifying statistics on the kidsandguns.org website.
|(1) From 1997-2002, more than 1,324 children were killed in firearm accidents. (2) 1.69 million kids 18 and under in the United States are living with loaded and unlocked household firearms. (3) 48% of gun-owning households with children do not regularly make sure that guns are equipped with child safety or other trigger locks.|
Think about this: Would you leave capped and fused dynamite and matches lying around unattended in the presence of children? Silly question, isn’t it? The only difference between explosives and loaded, unsecured firearms is explosives can destroy property. A loaded, unsecured firearm in the hands of a child can result in a death just as quickly as a stick of dynamite.
|§ 18.2-56.2. Allowing access to firearms by children; penalty. A. It shall be unlawful for any person to recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of fourteen. Any person violating the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.|
I’m not surprised there’s a law prohibiting the leaving of loaded, unsecured firearms where children can find them. I am, however, very surprised that the violation is only considered a Class 3 misdemeanor. That’s easily settled with the payment of a fine. If an adult is found guilty of the above statute and a death has occurred as a result, that adult should spend the rest of his/her life behind bars.
If you think I’m being hard about this, that is my deliberate intent. I have no mercy or lenience for an adult that will knowingly leave loaded guns where children can get hold of them. As an adult, you are responsible for your actions. Act responsibly!
Children are inquisitive by nature. They want to explore, investigate and learn. When they discover an item they’re not familiar with, they’ll pick it up and handle it. Sometimes, they learn the hard way and live to tell about it. When a child discovers a loaded firearm, there’s a high probability a death will result.
I’m not saying your firearms should be kept unloaded at all times, although that’s not entirely a bad idea. Read the statute again. …recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child… The problem starts when both conditions exist. If one condition, preferably both, is eliminated, the chance of a tragic accident is pretty much eliminated also.
When I teach my Concealed Handgun Permit classes, this is the subject I hammer on the hardest. Rightly so, I say. That child doesn’t know any better yet. You do.