New Jersey State law says all firearms must be secured away from anyone under the age of 16 or have a trigger lock installed
In April of 2013 two little boys played at a home in Toms River, NJ— they rode Go-Karts, ran around the front yard and made guns with their hands as they pretended to shoot at each other. The pretend shoot-em up game quickly changed as the four-year-old resident grew bored with playing fake guns and went to seek out his father’s real .22 caliber rifle— which was openly available in the home. The four-year-old then took the gun out to the front yard where he shot at his friend, Brandon Holt, striking him in the head.
Holt was rushed to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune where he died from his head wound the following day.
Following an investigation, several more weapons were removed from the home, including two Harrington & Richardson shotguns, a Stevens 12-gauge shotgun, and a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, as well as ammunition all reportedly left unsecured around the home where three children lived and others came to play.
This resulted in the arrest of Anthony Senatore, the father of the four-year-old, on child-endangerment charges for each child present in the home that day, which included Senatore’s two other sons, ages 12 and 8.
After Senatore rejected a plea deal in September of 2013, he plead guilty to second-degree child endangerment charge for the danger posed to his own children and to a third-degree child endangerment charge for Brandon’s death.
Senatore was also ordered to turn over his firearms purchaser card, which is needed to buy weapons in New Jersey. Senatore is out on $100,000 bail until his sentencing date in February 2015; he is likely facing around three years in prison.
This is not an isolated incident
In Detroit last week a little boy shot himself in the thigh after his mother left a .40 caliber handgun lying around in their living room, reported by the boy to be left on the table where he found it. His mother, Latasha Lum, who was sleeping at the time, awoke to a gunshot being fired and found her son had shot himself. The four-year-old is expected to recover. Lum was charged with second-degree child abuse.
Or how about the man in Houston, Patrick Sanders, who was shot in the face with his own gun after he fell asleep and the handgun allegedly slipped out of his pocket and into the hands of a three-month-old infant. When Sanders awoke to find the baby playing with the gun he tried to wrestle the gun away when the gun fired, striking him in the face and putting him in critical condition.
There is also the story of Leah Wilcken who was charged in October with four misdemeanors after she allowed her 17-year-old son to take a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun to his school in California. The charges against Wilcken include contributing to the delinquency of a minor, allowing child endangerment to occur, allowing a child to take a firearm on school premises, and allowing a child to take a firearm off-premises. Wilcken had several other unsecured firearms in her home.
These stories are not rare, they break several times a week and have become a rather common occurrence in this country.
The NRA fights laws designed to keep kids safe
In a study by The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence they found that 12 states with childhood access prevention laws lowered accidental child deaths by 23 percent between 1990 and 1994.
They also found:
The presence of unlocked guns in the home increases the risk of both unintentional gun injuries and intentional shootings. A 1999 study found that more than 75% of the guns used in youth suicide attempts and unintentional injuries were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative,or a friend.
There are currently 28 states (including D.C.) who have child access prevention laws on the books but there is no current federal law that would uniformly work to protect children in all states. Southern states have the highest level of gun ownership, virtually no laws on the books against childrens access to guns and were found to be the most irresponsible at locking firearms away from children.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) fights against laws that are designed to charge neglectful parents who leave unsecured firearms around the home. The NRA have prevented the Center for Disease Control from studying gun violence for years until 1997 when a study was released finding children are nine times more likely to die in a firearm related incident than other developed nations.
In an article by The New York Times:
The rifle association’s lobbying arm recently posted on its Web site a claim that adult criminals who mishandle firearms — as opposed to law-abiding gun owners — are responsible for most fatal accidents involving children. But The Times’s review found that a vast majority of cases revolved around children’s access to firearms, with the shooting either self-inflicted or done by another child.
So, while conservative America is focused on keeping embryos and fetuses born, and focused on protecting their second amendment rights, they once again have dropped the ball for living, breathing children and their need for protection against guns.
Do you think laws designed to prevent households from leaving their firearms laying around with children present are a good idea? Let us know in the comments.