Sunday, June 10, 2007

What's worse than terrorism?

Cho Seung-Hui, they said, had issues. Guns don't kill people; people kill people. So what's the real issue when the killer -- and victim -- is two years old?

Gary Younge of The Guardian finds that on an average day, eight children are killed in the US by guns. That's 2920 children in a year -- more than the number of people who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. The foregoing link leads to an audio clip, in which Younge tells the stories of some of the nine children who died on a day he chose at random (November 25, 2006, Thanksgiving Sunday). One of these was a two-year-old in Tampa, FL, who found a gun behind a sofa cushion, and accidentally shot himself in the chest. On an average day, eight US children die from gunshots: four white, three black, one Hispanic; on that day, there were eight black and one Hispanic. Most are poor.

The original argument for guns in the Second Amendment, Younge notes, was self-defense against tyrannical government; today, the argument pro-gun Americans make is self-defense against each other!

Younge adds that there is very little interest in America in gun-related deaths, which are a "regular occurrence". In one case, the victim was not even named in a news report; the police never even thought to issue a press release.

Left: Still from a video of Andrew, five-year-old son of Lisa Nawrot, psychology professor at Minnesota State University, finding a .32 Beretta hidden in his playroom. "Not only did he pick up the gun, he aimed it and pulled the trigger before he came to get me," said Nawrot. The video was part of a study by Kristen McIntyre on how children aged 5-6 would react if they found a gun. Results showed that, no matter how much parents warned or taught their children about guns, and no matter how familiar children were with guns, it didn't necessarily prevent them from handling the weapon dangerously.The guns used in the study had, of course, been disabled by the local Sheriff's department.

Afterthought: What does it say about a culture that children's behavior with guns is even a research question?

Update: A few hours after I posted the above, I read that another two-year-old, this time in Wisconsin, has become a victim of gun violence. She is alive, but in critical condition. Why can't America make itself safe for its children?

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