WASHINGTON, D.C. - There’s not much talk in Washington these days about gun control.
The recent shootings in Santa Barbara, Calif., generated a little chatter that soon faded, and the long, dark shadow of the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre never led to any substantive federal legislation.
Some recent Democratic bills that focus on keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill might come to mind, but there’s not even significant Democratic support for the legislation and Republicans aren’t exactly mounting a hard push for the measures.
But maybe legislation is only part of the answer when it comes to unintentional gun-related deaths among children. A report released Wednesday shows that some common sense measures can play a role. According to "Innocents Lost: A Year of Unintentional Child Gun Deaths," keeping guns locked up and out of the reach of kids could make a difference – a difference in life or death.
The report is based on an analysis of publicly reported gun deaths, and it found that:
- From December 2012 to December 2013, at least 100 children were killed in unintentional shootings — almost two each week.
- About two-thirds of the deaths took place in a home or vehicle that belonged to the child’s family, most often with guns that were legally owned but not securely stored.
- More than two-thirds of the deaths could be avoided if gun owners stored guns responsibly.
The report, released by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, emphasizes that the Centers for Disease Control found that between 2007 and 2011 an average of 62 children age 14 and under died each year in unintentional shootings. That’s lower than the average found in the 2012-2013 study. But, truth is, either finding is disturbing. One death is one too many.
“Young children are naturally curious – expecting them to reliably follow safety rules as the only means to prevent gun injuries is a recipe for disaster. That's why people who own guns have an absolute responsibility to store them unloaded and locked out of reach of children," Dr. Thomas K. McInerny, past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a press release. "The AAP urges local, state and federal lawmakers to enact the strongest possible laws to prevent firearm injuries and deaths."
The report found that 28 states and the District of Columbia have some laws on the books that, to varying degrees, allow law enforcement to bring criminal charges against gun owners if children access their guns. An interactive map that reviews state child access prevention laws is also available here.
So that’s where legislation comes back into the picture – to enforce common sense – and to exact a penalty when it is not exercised. But passing well-crafted legislation to protect children would take common sense and compromise, and that could prove a challenge in gridlocked Washington. Expecting otherwise doesn’t show common sense.