When babies start killing themselves and others in gun accidents, it’s time to rethink the way guns are manufactured in this country.
Certainly, we don’t need more restrictive gun laws that disenfranchise law-abiding citizens.
What we do need, however, is “smart gun technology” that makes it impossible for toddlers to find misplaced guns and use them. The technology is there, but the gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association, believes implementing it would somehow diminish the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. That’s plain poppycock.
If all handguns had trigger locks and fingerprint ID technology, 13 U.S. children between the ages of 1 and 3 would be alive today — as well as a father killed when his toddler son shot him. Another 18 toddlers have been seriously injured from self-inflicted gun violence. The statistics are from 2015 and there are still two months left in the year.
Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham revealed the grim news of toddlers shooting toddlers in a chilling report published earlier this month. Using media archives from across America, Ingraham uncovered 43 instances this year of somebody being shot by a toddler aged 3 or younger. In 31 of those 43 cases, Ingraham reports, a toddler shot himself or herself.
The journalist found that two toddlers killed someone else with guns. One, a boy aged two, shot his father in the head. The other, aged three, shot a year-old baby in the head.
In all 43 cases, the toddlers found loaded guns left unattended by their owners and managed to pull the trigger.
It’s repulsive to think of babies in diapers firing a loaded gun. But it has happened in 24 states so far this year (none in Massachusetts).
“These numbers are probably an undercount,” writes Ingraham. “There are likely instances of toddlers shooting people that result in minor injuries and no media coverage. And there are probably many more cases where a little kid inadvertently shoots a gun and doesn’t hit anyone, resulting in little more than a scared kid and (hopefully) chastened parents.”
Gun violence involving children of all ages is a growing menace.
According to U.S. government figures, between 2004 and 2014, guns killed 4,207 American children under 16 and injured another 48,379. That’s an average of 438 children hit by a bullet each month.
Despite all the gun laws passed by the U.S. Congress and individual states, none carry mandatory language for trigger locks. The time has come to make gun manufacturers a part of the solution especially since they seem reluctant to do so themselves. Congress must champion the cause with a federal mandate for trigger locks.
Furthermore, Congress should enact legislation that phases in over 10 years the installation of fingerprint ID technology on every new gun manufactured and sold in America. The measure would prevent guns from being fired by anyone but the registered owner.
We’d also like to see a collaborative state-federal gun buyback program with the goal of eliminating existing guns that do not meet the new ID technology standard. This would be a voluntary program relying on a shared funding mechanism.
Gun safety laws should really be about gun safety, and these bold, reasonable measures accomplish that.
We can start by saving toddlers in diapers from gun accidents that are clearly preventable. And who knows, if that catches on maybe we can save the adults too.