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.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Please ASK if there are guns where your children play

Only in America do small children shoot themselves or friends or relatives on a daily basis with unlocked loaded guns sitting around in homes. Why? Because we have so many guns sitting around in our homes. The corporate gun lobby has encouraged Americans to buy guns for self protection by promoting fear and paranoia. The truth is, guns are rarely used in justifiable self defense. Rather, they ( guns) are more often used in domestic shootings, suicides, other homicides, and accidental shootings.

This blog post from Armed with Reason says it all. Children and guns do not go together. It's a lethal combination. From the post:
"Despite harrowing tragedies like Caroline’s death, the National Rifle Association is committed to expanding firearm ownership among children. The NRA’s recent convention in Indianapolis had a “Youth Day” to promote firearms to children, an event from which the media was banned. For years, gun manufacturers and the NRA have marketed firearms to children ages 5 to 12, insisting that programs such as the Eddie Eagle Safety Program ensure the safety of children. If they truly believe this, they are mistaken.
The overwhelming empirical evidence indicates that the presence of a gun makes children less safe, that programs such as Eddie Eagle are insufficient, and that measures the NRA and extreme gun advocates vehemently oppose, such as gun safes and smart guns, could dramatically reduce the death toll.  Study after study unequivocally demonstrates that the prevalence of firearms directly increases the risk of youth homicide, suicide, and unintentional death.  This effect is consistent across the United States and throughout the world.  As a country, we should be judged by how well we protect our children.  By any measure, we are failing horribly.
America accounts for nearly 75 percent of all children murdered in the developed world.  Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations. (...) In terms of accidental fatalities, American children younger than 15 are nine times more likely to die by a gun accident than those in the rest of the developed world.   Children living in states with higher levels of firearm availability also suffer from significantly higher rates of unintentional gun deaths. Studies indicate the vast majority of these shootings involve either family or friends.  These statistics indicate that parents’ ownership of a weapon is a significant risk not only to their own children but also to their children’s friends. As a reportfrom the New York Times revealed, accidental killings are significantly underreported in the official data, often being classified as homicides or suicides rather than accidents. In several states there were twice as many accidental gun deaths than the official record indicated.
In light of this empirical reality, coupled with the fact that many gun owners are unaware that children have handled their guns, the safest policy is not having a gun in the home. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocates this approach to safety. In contrast, the NRA claims that its safety programs work and are sufficient, despite significant evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, the NRA ignores the overwhelming evidence that firearms make children less safe and continues to promote bills that forbid pediatricians from talking to parents about guns and safety measures.
Children from states where firearms are prevalent also suffer from significantly higher rates of homicide, even after accounting for poverty, education, and urbanization.  A study focusing on youth in North Carolina found that most of these deaths were caused by legally purchased handguns.  A recent meta-analysis revealed that easy access to firearms doubled the risk of homicide and tripled the risk for suicide among all household members. Family violence is also much more likely to be lethal in homes where a firearm is present, placing children especially in danger. Murder-suicides are another major risk to children when guns are involved."
This should be enough evidence that we must do something to change what's happening now. That is why today the Northland Brady/ Protect Minnesota chapter is holding an event at which our Mayor will declare June 23rd ASK day in Duluth. Is there anyone who supports leaving locked guns around for children to access? The ASK campaign is a collaboration between the Brady Center and the American Academy of Pediatrics:
In America, one out of three homes with children has a gun, and nearly 1.7 million children live in a home with a loaded, unlocked gun. Every year thousands of kids are killed and injured as a result.
The ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Campaign promotes a simple idea with the potential to help keep kids safe. It encourages parents to ASK if there is an unlocked gun in the homes where their children play.
Parents ask all sorts of questions before their children visit other homes. They ask about pets in the house, discuss allergies and Internet access, and ask questions about supervision. ASK encourages parents to add one more question to this conversation: “Is there an unlocked gun in your house?” It’s a simple question, but it has the power to save a child’s life.
Every parent cares about the safety of their children. ASK allows parents to play an active role in keeping kids safe. Any parent can make a difference by ASKing, and encouraging others to do the same.
Here's why asking is so important. Last week, an 11 year old from Michigan shot and killed a friend while his mother was mowing the lawn, unaware of what was going on inside of the house. From the article:
The noise from the mower drowned out the siren as an ambulance pulled in front of the house, a neighbor said.
Miller had no idea that her son had just called 911 to report that he had accidentally shot Lucas.
The two boys, in little more than the 10 minutes since Miller had started the mower, had found a loaded revolver inside the house.
Lucas, who lived barely a block away — just across the railroad tracks — was pronounced dead at the scene, a single gunshot wound in his chest.
“Jen was a mess,” said next-door neighbor Rose McNemar. “I tried to comfort the little boy. He was shaking and bawling. He had blood on him. He kept saying, ‘Is he OK? He’s going to be OK, Mom?’  ”
Neither family will ever be the same. Another similar incident happened in 2011, again it was an 11 year old boy. Noah was shot by his friend with a gun found laying around in the friend's bedroom. This story written by his mother who is a spokesperson for the ASK Campaign, is poignant and painful. From the article:
On the night of December 30, 2011, Noah was shot and killed by his best friend with one of the four guns the friend had laying in his bedroom. They were not locked. The friend picked up the gun and was "playing" around and pulled the trigger. That "playful" action destroyed my life and created a sorrow in me that will never go away.
I'm not even sure that other people completely understand what it feels like to bury your child. Especially when it wasn't because of anything he did or anything you did. It was because of someone else's irresponsibility and poor judgment.
Here's how I found out. I got a call in the middle of the night to go check on the boys. I didn't know that meant something bad had happened until I got closer to the house and saw the yellow caution tape, the ambulance and the police officers out front. I went into shock, which is a good thing, since I couldn't absorb all of the trauma at once. Instead, my body and my mind slowly became aware that I was getting the worst news of my entire life. 
In all those years of play dates and sleepovers, I never had anyone ask me about my guns, and I never asked anyone else about theirs. I didn't think to ask. I would have never let my child go there if I had known they had guns lying around unsecured. That's something I live with for the rest of my life. If I would have known, if I would have asked the question and maybe if they had told me the truth, I wouldn't have let him go.

And just one more. This mother writes about losing her son to an "accidental" shooting when he was just five in 1998. The pain is still with her. From the article:
That night, when I went to pick Markie and Jennifer up, I was running late due to heavy rain and traffic. The sitter had to go to her evening job and left her 11-year-old son in charge for just a few minutes. In that short window of time, the son found a gun in the closet, loaded it and began playing with it. Markie startled him when he walked in the room and ended up shot in the heart. My five-year-old Jennifer had to call 911. I raced to the hospital and was surprised to find the TV news already there. The doctors told us his injuries were too extensive they could not repair his little heart. He was gone.
We had lost our son and soon realized another mother was on the verge of losing hers as well. The 11-year-old was like a brother to my son and this had been a horrible accident. He spent the summer locked away in juvenile detention. After months of pleas, he was finally released with probation to get the counseling he needed. But, even now, his scars are still there some 16 years later. He has a burden no child should have to carry and this is the knowledge he took a life of someone he loved.
Children should not die by bullet while playing with friends or at their babysitter's home. These incidents are just three of many. Sometimes the shootings involve siblings. In fact, often the shootings involve siblings. This Minnesota case actually resulted in the father of the toddler getting 10 years' probation for leaving a loaded gun where a child could find it. From this article:
But the judge’s mercy came with a stern warning to the grieving father, who must spend his probation with lengthy community service — namely educating the Hmong community on the importance of gun safety.
“I have no doubt that you’re sorry. What I had my doubts about is your ability to understand and appreciate the gravity of the danger you placed your children in,” Moreno said. “Unfortunately for you, it took a long, grueling, graphic, tragic trial for you to understand this. I believe finally you have accepted responsibility.”
After the hearing, Xiong’s large contingent of supporters filed out of the courtroom in silent, shocked relief. The scene was in sharp contrast to a month ago, when the guilty verdicts left his mother wailing and his brother cursing the tearful Hennepin County jurors. Xiong, 31, who was also sentenced to 30 days in jail, was released Thursday afternoon, his time already served.
Xiong's  4 year old son shot and killed his 2 year old son with a loaded gun left for the toddler to access. Minnesota has a Child Access Prevention law. But these laws are rarely enforced because parents are already suffering and grieving. Perhaps if we enforced the laws already on the books, parents would realize their own responsibility in these kind of tragedies.

The New York Times exposed some interesting and disturbing facts recently. Accidental gun deaths of children may actually be under reported:
Cases like these are among the most gut-wrenching of gun deaths. Children shot accidentally — usually by other children — are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.
They die in the households of police officers and drug dealers, in broken homes and close-knit families, on rural farms and in city apartments. Some adults whose guns were used had tried to store them safely; others were grossly negligent. Still others pulled the trigger themselves, accidentally fracturing their own families while cleaning a pistol or hunting.
And there are far more of these innocent victims than official records show.
A New York Times review of hundreds of child firearm deaths found that accidental shootings occurred roughly twice as often as the records indicate, because of idiosyncrasies in how such deaths are classified by the authorities. The killings of Lucas, Cassie and Alex, for instance, were not recorded as accidents. Nor were more than half of the 259 accidental firearm deaths of children under age 15 identified by The Times in eight states where records were available.
As a result, scores of accidental killings are not reflected in the official statistics that have framed the debate over how to protect children from guns.
9 children a day die from gun injuries in America. That is 9 too many. 1 in 3 households with children have guns in them. When loaded guns are left for children to access them, there is great risk that the guns will be used in accidental shootings or suicides and homicides. Common sense tells us that guns are dangerous. The fact that so many parents are not responsible with their guns is alarming. The ASK campaign is one way to make sure that parents become more responsible. This is something that everyone can agree to. Please ask and save lives. The incidents I have written about here are someone else's children. They could be yours.

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