How many more will it take?
This morning we woke up to the news that a 12-year-old was shot by police over an airsoft gun for failing to follow their instructions and display his hands. Initial reports are that this gun had been modified to remove the orange identifier from the barrel. We have seen a number of children with toy guns shot over the years by police who were responding to a report of a person with a firearm. Typically it is a kid in the 10 – 14-year-old range. Older teens seem to have the common sense to know that walking around with a replica is going to cause some real problems. Younger kids with no exposure to guns other than what they see in the movies are the ones at risk.
We have a responsibility to make children safer, and education is the key. Children, guns and education is not really and option, its a moral imperative. A twelve-year-old is certainly capable of understanding the risks a firearm can pose. The real barrier is the education systems desire to wish guns away from our society. Their pursuit of some alternate universe where guns don’t exist is ignorant, irresponsible and quite frankly causing the deaths of between 250 and 300 kids a year, who simply didn’t know any better. We have more guns than cars in this nation, and children will be exposed to them. We can control that exposure through education, or continue to roll the dice and hope they figure it out on their own.
By the time a kid is 10 years old, he or she has seen literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of irresponsible role models on TV and in the movies. These tend to depict unrealistic, unsafe and / or poor safety practices. The fact that we are not providing education on firearms in our schools as part of the curriculum is insane. While the education system is busy suspending five-year-olds for making finger guns, about 275 of their peers will die in 2016 because the education system fears that which it does not understand.
Like it or not, your irrational fear of an inanimate object does not trump the basic human right to self-defense in this nation. The concept that we should ban firearms from the education system is about as effective as assuming Hollywood will adequately teach our kids to cross the street and to drive safely. Banning guns in the name of safety is not, has not and will not work. Education is the key to solving a number of social problems and the preventable deaths of young kids is no different.
Next are the parents. Toy guns are a great tool to teach responsible ownership practices, but you cannot treat them like other toys. What parent in their right mind would allow a child to modify a fake gun to make it look more realistic, and then allow them to take it to the park to play with it? I understand kids will do irresponsible things, sometimes without their parent’s permission. If you are going to allow your kids to own replica guns, they should be locked away with the real guns. Otherwise, you run the risk that your child will go to the park with it, be too nervous to comply with police commands, and be shot. When and if that happens its as much or more your fault then the child’s. Misdemeanor, if not felony child endangerment comes to my mind when I hear about things like this happening.
The police cannot differentiate between a real gun and a replica at more than contact distance – especially if it has been modified. In the age of mass murders, we do not want the police to respond to cases of individuals waving guns around with anything other than clear instructions and lethal force if those instructions are not followed. More than 80% of teen firearm-related deaths are gang related. The vast majority of those deaths occur in the 12- to 19-year-old age range. The concept that a twelve-year-old is not a potential threat is simply not the reality of the world we live in, no matter how badly we want it to be otherwise.
Police cannot fix this problem. Smart parenting and education can. If you love your kids, do your part. These tragedies will not stop until we as a nation demand education in our schools. While you may choose not to own a firearm in your house, the chances are that several of the parents of your child’s classmate’s do. Failing to give your son or daughter the education to make a responsible choice is putting them at risk.
This is a problem with a simple “common sense” solution.
~ Patrick Henry