Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kids shooting guns

Certainly my readers know what I think about kids and guns. I write about it often on this blog. I write about the number of children being shot accidentally or by suicide or homicide. It's frightening to say the least. Kids are fascinated with guns. If they don't have a toy gun, they make them with sticks, other toys or their fingers, etc. Little boys in particular seem to love shooting noises and pretend shooting at an imaginary animal or toy. It must be something in the DNA of male children ( or testosterone?). But real guns are not toys. They are designed to actually injure or kill someone. So in a contradiction about kids and guns, here now is an article about a Minnesota camp that is teaching kids about winning and losing- sort of survival games in a way. Part of the camp is teaching 10 year olds to shoot assault type rifles. Good idea?
Grace Savage looked pint size as the 10-year-old leaned her shoulder into the stock of a shiny replica assault rifle.
With a calm pull of the trigger, she fired the .22-caliber weapon and sent a bullet flying inches above the target.
“OK, now this time aim a little lower,” counseled the instructor, Kurt Brouillet. “See if you can hit the 2.”
Thwack. A bullet hole appeared on the white paper target, an inch above the numeral. (...) 
Tiny girls shooting big guns isn’t the only unusual sight at the first Victory Games summer camp, created at the Sealed Mindset gun range and self-defense training facility in New Hope. In a week, campers learn shooting, archery, self-defense, knot-tying, tactical decision making and compression-only CPR — and then put those skills to work in competitive games in which teams of two compete against each other to win the Victory Games.
It’s a little like “The Hunger Games,” only instead of life and death, the Victory Games is all about winning and losing and the benefits that can come from either one.
Right. At the end of this article, there is this:
Kent said he plays up the drill sergeant role a little bit for the fun of the camp, but the structure and the rules of the event are real. Grace accidentally pointed the .22 in the wrong direction on the first day, giving her an “unsafe” citation. A second would mean removal from camp.
Yatch hopes the camp has a long-term impact on the children and teaches them important safety skills but also no fear of failure.
“We wouldn’t be putting the effort we put into this just to entertain the kids,” Yatch said. “We’re not doing ‘make-things-out-of-duct tape camp.’ Our goal is to have long-term effects on the children.”
Right. "Long-term effects on the children" could mean bad things as well. Does anyone remember the little boy(aged 5) who shot his sister with a special kids' rifle? I do. That's a long-term effect. So after examining the wisdom of teaching 10 year olds how to shoot assault type rifles, let's examine again why it is not a good idea for young kids to handle guns. There are other guns that could be used to teach children to hunt. But the corporate gun lobby wants to increase sales of assault type rifles. They are high priced guns. If kids get hooked on them, perhaps they will want to buy them when they become old enough to do so. And further, even though parents tell children not to touch guns, they touch anyway- familiar or not familiar with guns. Teaching kids to "survive" using guns is right up the alley of the gun rights extremists many of whom stock pile guns in case of insurrection against their duly elected government.

Even though children may be trained to shoot a gun, accidents still happen. Like, for instance, the latest accidental shooting of a Minnesota 9 year old by her 5 year old brother. How often does this have to happen before those law abiding gun owners will realize that guns are inherently dangerous and most especially around curious children? From the article:
Gun advocates are issuing an urgent reminder to parents following the accidental shooting of an Oakdale girl.    
Police said her five year old brother shot her with a rifle Friday night.
Authorities believe the girl will recover but some are using this case to stress the importance of gun safety.
Jeff Byrne is a firearms safety instructor at his sporting goods store, Cabin Fever in Victoria.
He brought out a box of unspent gun shells and said, "We use this little display in our firearm safety class.
What do the shells have in common?
Byrne said, "All these shells, whether it's a shotgun shell, rifle or pistol, all came out of an unloaded firearm."
When he said 'unloaded,' he meant a firearm the owner thought was unloaded but was not.
Byrne said, "What we teach in all our firearm safety classes is you first open up and look inside of [the gun] to make sure there is nothing in there."
At Friday's shooting in a home on the 1800 block of Helena Road North in Oakdale, its unknown if the father knew a gun was loaded.
But Oakdale Police said dad and grandpa and a total of five children were home when the 5-year-old boy picked up a firearm and accidentally shot his 9-year-old sister in the upper chest.
According to Michelle Stark with Oakdale Police, as of Saturday afternoon, the girl remained in stable condition at Gillette Children's Hospital in Saint Paul, expected to recover from the gunshot wound.
Stark said the gun was a .22-caliber rifle and, "It's our understanding that a family member was repairing an item associated with the gun and it was left out."
Byrne said, "Never leave your guns unattended while you step away to grab the phone or do something else.
He said it's important to always store ammunition separate from firearms, and store guns with trigger locks or in a safe.
He said, "That way the kids don't grab them and we don't run into these situations."
Oakdale Police are investigating the shooting and looking into whether charges should be filed.

Let's talk for a minute about parents letting kids have guns for self protection. Is that a good idea? I would say a resounding "no" after this tragedy in Arizona:
 A 13-year-old boy is on life support after being shot in Wickenburg Friday night, according to a spokesman for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
In an email to 3TV, Officer Christopher Hegstrom stated that the boy had been shot by a friend around 7 p.m. He was then flown to Phoenix Children's Hospital where he remains on life support.
Saturday afternoon, Sheriff Joe Arpaio told 3TV the father of the shooter had left the gun with the kids intentionally.
According to Arpaio, the father needed to do some shopping, so he left his 13-year-old son and his son’s 13-year-old friend home alone.  A ten-year-old not involved in the shooting was also left at the house.
Apparently, according to Arpaio, the dad had been worried about the family's safety so he left the gun with the kids thinking they would be able to protect themselves.
While the father was gone his son accidentally shot his friend in the head.
Although the sheriff’s office is investigating the shooting as an accident, Arpaio said criminal charges could be coming for the father.
An update to this article gives the news that the boy who was shot has now died. That's a long-term affect on children and their families for sure.

You really can't make this stuff up. If we want to talk about irresponsible gun owners, this father is a poster child. Parents like to take their children hunting and they make sure, hopefully, that they get proper training on how to handle the gun. But more often than admitted by the gun rights extremists, children shoot each other or themselves accidentally or in suicides and even homicides. And leaving a gun on purpose in a home for a child to use in self defense is just downright insane and dangerous. This is not OK. The Kid Shootings blog posts a lot about kids shooting or being shot in incident after incident. In the latest blog the Gun Report by Joe Nocera of the New York Times, there were only 2 incidents reported of children being injured or killed by a gun. Usually this report includes the shooting of many children in just a few days' time.

We are better than this. For the sake of our children, common sense about guns and gun use is vitally important. Too many parents and gun owners are cavalier about their guns, thinking that kids won't get their hands on them. But they do. As we say on the Kid Shootings blog: "Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult." Adults should be responsible gun owners. Too many are not. Between 7 and 8 children are dying every day in America from bullets. That is not OK. It's time for a change.


Is this what we have come to when we teach little kids to use guns? A 12 year old Pennsylvania boy robbed a lemonade stand with a real looking BB handgun.


  1. I bristle when I see the gun guys letting (and in some cases, insisting against objections) their young, pre-teen (and even toddler!) children handle their guns and shoot them. The gun extremists call it "training", but it's really just them pushing their fetish of dangerous objects and dangerous ideology on their children. They have become blinded to the danger. And there is no shortage of children of gun owners who wind up getting hold of daddy's gun and shooting themselves and others. If you asked any of those gun owners the day before, I'm certain they would have insisted that their children were safe and trained against handling guns without permission (and angry you had asked, no less).

    Children are naturally impulsive and curious, and studies have shown that kids of gun owners have overwhelmingly accessed their parents' guns without permission, even when locked. There is simply no excuse for desensitizing them further to lethal weapons.

  2. "If you asked any of those gun owners the day before, I'm certain they would have insisted that their children were safe and trained against handling guns without permission (and angry you had asked, no less)."

    Baldr, on this point I have to agree with you. No matter how attentive and well behaved they may be under supervision, kids can still make bad decisions when not around parents. My guns are always secured unless I'm in direct control of them. There are many options available to keep firearms safe from tampering.
    I do have to disagree with you in the area teaching children to shoot. I never insist, they just want to. Marksmanship is a safe sport and actually an Olympic event. You have every freedom to decide that you and yours wont take part. Will my children decide to partake of the shooting sports when they grow up? That's up to them when they became adults. With the exception of shooting at Boy Scout summer camps, I grew up in a gun free home and didn't really learn to shoot seriously until I enlisted in the Army at 17.
    How do these children access these locked firearms you speak of?

  3. I just got back from the National Trophy Matches at Camp Perry, OH. These are federally-sanctioned under the auspices of the US Civilian Marksmanship Program.

    I saw a ton of kids competing in the junior leagues. They are proficient athletes and very safe. Kids are allowed to bring their own rifles, and indeed, most do because they are serious competitors who want to use the best equipment possible, like any other serious athlete. It was not unusual to see two young teen girls gossiping while cleaning their rifles, for example, or to see a line of kids all making good shots at 600 yards on the range. Of course, the rifle of choice for the federally-chartered CMP's Service Rifle matches is the AR-15. The M1 Garand is also allowed, but it really is too big and heavy for most kids to handle. The AR-15 is the competition rifle of choice for juniors and adults alike.

    The other element I noticed just talking with the really elite top-tier athletes I met at the competitions is that most of the top athletes started shooting as kids. This makes sense: Yo-Yo Ma didn't become a master musician overnight. Yo-Yo Ma's parents were musicians, and he was raised playing stringed instruments from a very young age. If you want to get top-tier performers in any field, whether that be chess or music or marksmanship, you need active youth programs.

    We NEED these programs for youth as a nation. For example, one young man I spoke to was a junior enlisted member in the Army Marksmanship Unit. He is responsible for training our active duty soldiers and coalition partners in Afghanistan on marksmanship. This young man started shooting at the age of 7 or 8, started competing in rifle marksmanship with the AR-15 in his young teens, was recruited into the Army specifically due to his marksmanship skills, and is now a national-level competitor and an extremely valuable national resource. You can't grow these advanced skills overnight: top-tier athletes and coaches must be developed from a young age, whether the activity in question is tennis or violin or rifle marksmanship. If we want experts who can provide this skill set then we need youth marksmanship programs.

    Heck, sometimes the juniors beat the adults in competition... For example, in 2009, a Junior Rifle Team from California beat the Army Marksmanship Unit at a national-level team match. The kids were one of only two civilian teams to ever win at the event over the last century or so.

    Not all kids are responsible enough to be trusted with firearms, just like not all kids can be trusted around electrical appliances, cars, or swimming pools. Some can be trusted. Just like with any potentially dangerous item or activity, parents need to be involved.

    There are hundreds of juniors at Camp Perry this week, safely handling pistols and rifles. They do this every year with no significant issues. Around the nation there are thousands or tens of thousands more kids who safely handle firearms. My wife and I have taught over a dozen kids this year alone, and we've met the most responsible, respectful families and kids in the process. Some kids are mature enough to handle the activity. Overall, shooting sports are significantly safer for kids than many other youth activities like swimming, football, cheerleading, etc.

    Chris from AK

    1. Cellists don't kill people with their cellos. There is a difference. Shooting sports may be safe if done the right way but I don't think you can say they are safer than swimming, football, cheerleading, etc. because more children die from gun injuries than those other activities. I'm sure you are a responsible, respectful person. That was not the point of my post.

  4. They are unequivocally safer than swimming in terms of deaths, and football and cheerleading are both more dangerous in terms of annual injuries/participant. http://www.advancedphysicalmedicine.org/most-dangerous-sports-infographic.php

    In 2010 there were 31,672 gun deaths which includes suicides, self-defense, officer involved shooting so it is a bogus number, but even still there were about 300,000,000 guns in the country if there were no multiple homicides.... there was 1 death for every 10,000 guns.

    Over overwhelmingly the murders are felons killing felons and I don't feel to bad about that.

    Each year 1 in 100,000 High School and college football athletes are killed playing football and their deaths bother me far more.

    Cheerleading also happens to be the most dangerous sport for female athletes with between 50-66& of all traumatic head injuries

    You literally could not have picked 3 worse examples.

    1. So you are saying that it bothers you more that 1 in 100,000 athletes die playing football and that bothers you more than the 7 children a day who die from gun injuries?? Wow. Enough said. Many more are injured who don't die, by the way, from firearms injuries. I say- let's not do one thing about this. Let's just let kids die from those gun injuries. No matter. If it's not your child, I guess it doesn't bother you.

  5. Um. No. More children die from the other activities. According to the CDC report on deaths for 2010 (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_04.pdf) there were 795 accidental deaths from drownings and and 62 accidental deaths from firearms in children 0-14 years old.

    Shooting sports are very safe. CDC doesn't seem to track cellists. But it is good to use facts when making decisions about safety.

    1. These are only accidental gun deaths in children. Overall, gun deaths for children aged 0-17 take more lives than drownings or other causes. Drownings take the lives of more very young children but as the age increases, gun deaths take more lives.

  6. I've gone around on this blog before about comparative data of deaths of children by causes other than firearms. It is clear that gun deaths take the lives of more children than most other accidental causes and most other causes in some age categories. It is also clear that America has the highest number of gun deaths in children, no matter the age, than any other civilized country not at war. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/10/15/peds.2012-2481.full.pdf



    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/11/children-protection-gun-violence/2079177/ This one shows that the number of accidental firearms deaths in children aged 4 and under doubled in 2010.

  7. "It is also clear that America has the highest number of gun deaths in children, no matter the age..."

    So, once we leave out accidental we're left with homicides. If we take out all gang-related murders, how many are left?

    1. You can check out Kid Shootings blog for the number of times a child is killed by a gun. Also the Children's Defense Fund. Kid Shootings uses incidents only of children under the age of 17 for reporting on them.


      http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/protect-children-not-guns-2013.html " In 2010, 2,694 children and teens died from guns in the United States—one child or teen every three hours and 15 minutes, seven every day, 51 every week for a year. More than six times as many children and teens—18,270—suffered nonfatal gun injuries as gun deaths in 2010. This is equal to one child or teen every 30 minutes, 50 every day, and 351 children and teens every week. "

      Age groupings are done at the CDC in 5 year increments. Some of their stats include teens over 17. I don't know about you but my "children" lived in my home until they were 18. They went away to college where I still considered them to be my children and then lived at home most summers until they graduated from college. They are grown adults now. I still call them my kids. What do you call your kids over 18 when someone asks you how many kids you have? Do you say none?

      Most homicides are among people who know each other. Some of the deaths of children are gangs. Many are not. To categorize them in that way, it says a lot about you. I doubt that children who are below the age of say, 14, are gang members or not many anyway. And yet, children under 15 in the categories as they are designated, are dying from gun injuries. We are left also with suicides which take the lives of a lot of teens. That is a large national public health problem that gets swept under the rug but it is very real. We can't take out any of the categories. It is what it is. Just because you don't like it or deny it doesn't make it go away.

  8. Let's all peruse the kidshootings.blogspot.com and see if we can glean something from it. That way we'll be on the same page. (There further may be other data sources on child shootings to mine which may be of value to us.) One problem concerning blogging, Facebook pages, etc, is that discussions tend to go around in gyrations but rarely move forward. I think it's primarily the fault of the nature of this form of electronic communication. To reach any common ground we have to move beyond that limitation.

    Regarding guns in the home: Obviously, if a house has no firearms there can be no gun injuries/deaths caused by them - unless a gun is brought to the house by some party, welcomed or not.

    Our family's guns are in a proper gun safe (Timber Ridge, I think). Family members have no mental instability and no children are living with us and we live in a rural area. For a house with guns, that's about as safe as you can get.

    But the degree of security from domestic gun violence will vary with a number of factors; a) whether are guns present in the house, b) the personalities of the occupants, c) presence of children, d) if weapons are left in the open &/or loaded, e) secured with trigger lock, f) portable lock box, g) fix-mounted lock box, h) true gun safe, i) availability of ammunition, j) geographic location, k) etc, ....

    Each scenario provides a different level of security and doubtless the stats on domestic gun injuries must bear this out. The issue in our country is that we do not secure firearms properly. Safe gun storage should be federally mandated. Tactics to allow quick access to a firearm for home defense, as per the Castle Doctrine upheld in Heller and McDonald, can be integrated with safe gun storage.