July 29, 2017 – The Houston Chronicle Editorial
Kids and guns
Shooting deaths could be reduced, yet elected officials are reluctant to act.
It’s beginning to feel like Groundhog Day; bad news about gun violence keeps popping up with maddening regularity.
Today we learn that 3.5 children die from gun violence every day and 15.5 more are injured. Specifically, a study in the journal Pediatrics has reported that between 2012 and 2014, 1,300 kids a year, on average, were shot and killed, making firearms second only to motor vehicle accidents as a cause of injury-related deaths. And make no mistake about it, this is a uniquely American tragedy. Among the world’s 23 richest countries, the United States accounts for a whopping 91 percent of all firearm related deaths of children under 14, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Some of the statistics are painfully predictable. Homicides accounted for 53 percent of the deaths, and adolescent boys aged 14 to 17 years were the vast majority of those killed. (The study defined children as 0 to 17 years of age.) African American kids were the most likely victims.
Not so expected was a significant rise in suicides, which accounted for 38 percent of deaths. Suicide by gun among youngsters has climbed 60 percent since 2007. These victims were more likely non-Hispanic whites or Native Americans.
The Pediatrics study is so disheartening because with the exception of homicides, most of these shootings are easily preventable. All it would take is a genuine effort to improve gun safety in the home and to remove impediments to the development and sale of smart guns. As for homicides – and suicides – we need a better understanding of the societal, cultural, and familial pressures that drive a kid to kill kids – or himself. Congress should repeal the Dickey Amendment, which has for 20 years prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from undertaking research into gun violence.
Strengthening Child Access Prevention laws, which hold gun owners accountable for safe storage of firearms, would have a significant impact on child shooting deaths, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. There are no CAP laws at the federal level, and only 27 states have some form of the law, ranging from relatively strong to very weak. Texas has one of the stronger laws, and it is only a misdemeanor.
The most effective solution, of course, would be built-in technologies that make guns child-proof. Consumers have come to accept child-proof caps on medicines, finger-print protected smart phones, and are well on their way to accepting self-driving cars. So why not smart gun technology, which is designed to prevent anyone other than the owner from firing a weapon?
The National Rifle Association and its lobbying arm have used their significant power over elected officials to prevent progress on all these fronts. Why? Because they view each as a ploy by enemies of Second Amendment rights to confiscate their guns. Truth is, some serious gun control advocates don’t much like the idea of a technological solution either since they fear safer guns will make it harder to ban or limit firearms.
Our representatives in Austin and Washington D.C., could settle this argument once and for all.
Take the side of their youngest constituents and just say no to the NRA. Require under penalty of law that guns be safely stored, support research into the causes and prevention of gun violence, and encourage development of smart gun technology. But don’t take too long. Kids are dying every day.