Children with guns: Time to take a stand

Guns don’t kill people; 6-year-olds kill people. Perhaps that should be the new slogan of anti-gun-control lobby. Last Tuesday, a 6-year-old boy took a .32-caliber gun from his pants and shot his classmate, Kayla Rolland, in the neck. She died a half-hour later. Reportedly, there had been a scuffle on the playground between the boy and girl a day earlier. The boy, whose name has not yet been released, has been taken into custody by the Michigan state child welfare agency.
Who is to blame? You can heap the appropriate blame on the boy’s parents, on society, whomever, but none of this diminishes this simple fact: If the boy didn’t have the gun, Kayla Rolland would not be dead. Gun advocates would probably state that the problem wasn’t that the boy had the gun, but that Kayla didn’t have a gun to shoot him first. It is simply absurd to argue that more guns is the answer; this only exacerbates the problem. The answer is to control guns; at the very least keep them out of the hands of children.
It’s true that we don’t know how the boy came into possession of the gun, or even whether stricter gun laws would have prevented this particular tragedy. Statistics indicate that increased gun control and safety features dramatically decrease the number of tragic deaths, innocent children included. If you have more controls on the sale and transfer of guns, fewer guns go to the wrong people. Fewer guns mean fewer accidents, and, overall, fewer shootings.
Gun nuts might spout the clichÇ, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” This sounds nice and spooky. But no one is seriously considering outlawing guns entirely; they are simply advocating preventative measures in the production and sale of guns. Statistics show that guns kept in the home are more often misused than successfully used for their intended purpose — protection against an intruder. Often when a gun is kept in the house, the ever-curious child will obtain access to it. The alarming rate of such gun-related accidents has led to the gun-control advocate response, “If guns are outlawed, only the children of outlaws will accidentally shoot themselves.”
Despite the consequences of gun availability, “gun-rights” proponents insist that everyone has a constitutional right to bear arms. I think our forefathers had muskets in mind, not Uzi’s and AK-47’s. The amount of firepower available to the average teenager is staggering. Yet it is only nut cases, who either believe that Sweden is going to invade the United States — or that our very own government is going to turn into a dictatorship — that condone the present negligent accessibility of most semiautomatic weapons. Of course, I suppose you still need those to hunt deer.
There simply is no sensible reason to be against increased gun regulation. All the arguments I have heard that defend the “right” to have guns have been based on frenzied rhetoric, paranoia and fallacious reasoning. I cannot fathom how someone can witness the devastation caused by guns in our society, and yet negate increased gun control.
Even if you are against the control on the production and sale of guns, it seems innocuous enough to manufacture guns with safety devices. One such mechanism is a child safety lock, which prevents children from discharging the gun. President Clinton, in Florida on Tuesday for a Democratic fund-raiser, said, “Why could the child fire the gun? If we have the technology today to put in these child safety locks, why don’t we do it?” There is no good reason.
The inadequacy of our current gun legislation is tragically evident. Over the last three years, we have witnessed devastating school shootings, most of the victims being children. In 1998, two boys, 11 and 13, killed four girls and a teacher at a middle school in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Kip Kinkel killed his parents and a crowd of classmates. Then, of course, came the most prominent event, the shooting rampage at Columbine High School that resulted in the death of 12 students and one teacher.
Society might be to blame. Parents might be to blame. The Internet, television, violent computer games, etc. Whichever way you slice it, the simple, undeniable fact is that it is a gun that gives a person the power to kill. While we work on improving society’s values, why don’t we regulate guns so that more innocent children don’t get killed in the meantime. To blame society does not dismiss the fact that guns kill — even in the hands of a child.

Matthew Brophy’s column usually appears on alternate Tuesdays. He welcomes comments to [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]