Recent stories on CBS News and in the Seattle Times are strong indicators that a new push for so-called “safe storage” requirements on firearms could come soon, with the effort centering on tragic mishaps or deliberate shootings involving children or teens.
The Associated Press and USA Today Network used information collected by the Gun Violence Archive to arrive at some conclusions:
· Deaths and injuries spike for children under 5, with 3-year-olds the most common shooters and victims among young children.
· Accidental shootings spike again for ages 15-17, when victims are most often fatally shot by other children but typically survive self-inflicted gunshots.
· States in the South are among those with the highest per capita rates of accidental shootings involving minors.
The Seattle Times followed up on this, localizing the story to Washington State. It reported that “more than a dozen children injured or killed in the state since 2014 when they or another child mishandled an unsecured firearm, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.” But step back a moment for analysis. Over a time period spanning more than two calendar years, “more than a dozen” youngsters and teens were killed or injured in firearms mishaps. While any child fatality or injury, whether a firearm is involved or otherwise, that’s not very many victims in a state with a population topping 7 million.
It’s that sort of thing that inspires skepticism, which is exactly the reaction that the original report got from the Second Amendment Foundation. What alarmed SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb was that the CBS story quoted an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledging that his own agency’s data might be unreliable.
The story quoted Bob Anderson, chief of the mortality statistics branch at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics stating that the agency’s apparent undercount “is significant and important” but not surprising. According to CBS, Anderson said the CDC “has long suspected that its statistics on accidental firearms deaths are too low.”
“If the Associated Press and USA Today network data is accurate,” Gottlieb said in a statement, “and the CDC actually admits it has questioned its own statistics, this opens the agency up to questions about other data that it produces. It is no wonder that firearms organizations and industry groups have long questioned the CDC in its attempts to make firearms a public health issue.”
Accidental shootings frequently happen in homes where handguns are legally owned. But one incident that seemed to be the focus of the CBS report told about two brothers who had been riding bicycles around a motel where they were staying in a $30-a-night room. They decided to go inside “into a room where several adult acquaintances of their parents had been smoking marijuana.” The boys found a loaded .40-caliber handgun and the older child thought it was a toy. He fatally shot the younger boy in the head.
“The most alarming aspect of this report is that it looks like one more attempt to make firearms ownership a public health issue,” Gottlieb said. “And what are the solutions offered by so-called ‘gun safety’ advocates? More gun control. They seem more interested in punishment than prevention; holding people accountable rather than educating people.
“You cannot treat a civil right like a communicable disease,” he said.
Yet, that’s exactly what gun control lobbying groups have suggested. They have long advocated for laws requiring so-called “safe storage” that punish negligence rather than laws that promote education.
“What about teaching firearms safety as part of the public school curriculum,” Gottlieb challenged. “Why is that strategy never part of an effort to reduce firearms accidents among our youth? If you look up the term ‘gun safety,’ you will find that the leaders in that field are gun rights organizations, not lobbying groups that want to discourage firearms ownership or erode our rights under the Second Amendment.”