Handguns and Children: A Lethal Combination
by Brendon Morris

43% of households in USA that have children also have handguns in them
10 children are shot and killed every day
1 child will die every day from an accidental gun shot.

43% of households have guns.
Just think about that number for a moment.
Let's say your young son has 10 friends that he regularly plays with. At least 4 of those friends live in a house with a gun. Some may say that it does not sound like a large number; after all, just because there is a gun there does not mean that the child knows where it is right? WRONG.
When was the last time you successfully hid a Christmas present or birthday present in your house?
Remember back when you were a kid?
How easy was it for you to find things all over the house?
Remember finding Dad's secret stash of Playboys?
What about that time you found your older brothers piggy bank?
Do not make the mistake of thinking a kid will not find something you have hidden. "Surely it's kept locked up, right?" Errrrr...think again. The majority of handguns kept in homes are NOT kept safely locked up, simply because people are stupid enough to believe that they need to be able to access that gun as fast as possible in case of an emergency. These people keep their guns in bedside drawers, closets, under mattresses.

"My child has been taught the rules about guns and would never ever touch one"

Yeah, right. Educate a child all you like, but you will never overcome a child's natural curiosity. As they grow through their teenage years, they do become more aware of the consequences, the risks and all the other things you teach them (MOST do, anyway), but younger kids ignore all safety warnings. After all, it's just a gun, it's not dangerous, right? A child who has been well educated about guns and the do's and don'ts associated with them will, in a majority of cases, still pick up a gun. Most will act out a play-fight scene or something similar, pretending to be their favourite hero.

The ABC network conducted an experiment a couple of years ago. They went to a child care centre, and put the kids through a gun safety talk. Then, a couple of days later, they hid a couple of guns in the centre, all totally disabled of course. These kids, aged 4 to 8 years, found the guns easily enough, and then proceeded to do all things imaginable with them; looking down the barrel, waving them around the room, pointing them at their friends, getting involved in the old "cops and robbers" games. There was even one kid who said to his friend with the gun, "shoot me".

Some of these kids were not well educated in guns, thats true, but some of them have parents who would swear black and blue that their child would never, EVER touch a gun, let alone play with it. Yet one of those well educated kids found the gun and said "Ohh, a gun. I'm not allowed to touch guns". He then picked the gun up and waved it around the room proclaiming "I'm touching a gun, I'm touching a gun". The boys mother was absolutely horrified when she saw the footage. Education is no guarantee of safety.

So, which of your child's 4 friends live with guns?
Which of those 4 know where the guns are?
Which of those 4 would, in an inspired moment of imagination, decide to use the gun to play a game or show off?

10 children die every day from handguns, through suicide, crime or accidents. How many kids died each year from guns in other countries? I believe these stats are for 1999; in Japan, not a single death was recorded, Great Britain had 19, 57 in Germany, 109 for France, 153 in Canada. I believe Australia was in the 30s or 40s. What about the home of the free? In the United States of America 5,285 CHILDREN died by gun. The only other countries that have figures like that are countries that are in the midst of war or are ruled by despots intent on ethnic cleansing.


Why? Why must 5,000 kids die like this? Over half of that number die from handguns. From 1984 to 1994, the firearm death rate for 15-19 year olds increased 222% while the non-firearm homicide death rate decreased almost 13%. Within five years, firearms are expected to overtake motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death among American children. These numbers are just horrendous.

You can be walking down the street and be mowed down by a drive-by shooter simply because you were walking past the house of the person they were targeting. You can go to school and find yourself on the receiving end of a kids frustration and anger at the world. You can be at a club and accidently bump into someone who refuses to accept your apology and offer of a new drink and instead guns you down in cold blood. Your 17-year-old son could be driving down the road in his car, and get involved in an accident, only to become the victim of a road rage shooting. Your son tries to protect his girlfriend from a teenage mugger and they wind up dead.

What about the gun-related suicides? Many people know the temptation of suicide. They know the depression, the anger, the frustration, the loneliness. Many people have even attempted it themselves. Those that survive the attempt will generally regret even trying. They are glad that someone discovered their body before the huge amount of pills could take their toll. They are glad that they could be saved. Many suicides are done on a whim. A moment of depression so dark that they see it as their only way out, yet those that survive that dark moment are grateful they did. How can someone with a hole in their head be saved? How can you rescue a child with their brains splattered all over their bedroom wall? How can we let these kids die so quickly and never see the light beyond?
In 1996, more than 1300 children aged 10-19 committed suicide with firearms. Unlike suicide attempts using other methods, suicide attempts with guns are nearly always fatal, meaning a temporarily depressed teenager will never get a second chance at life. Two-thirds of all completed teenage suicides involve a firearm.

One child will die every day through an accident with a handgun. As adults, we know the rules:

Never play with a gun.
ALWAYS assume the gun is loaded.
And of course, the most important rule of all: NEVER point a gun at someone or something you do not want to kill.

Kids know better. At least they think they do.
"Don't worry Mary, it's not loaded, see?"
Another child dies accidentally. WE know a gun is not a toy, and should never be treated as one. But kids? They think, if it's safe, then why shouldn't it be used as a toy?

Even kids who have been educated in guns will play with them. The ABC special I mentioned earlier included the tale of a young pair of boys who decided to play a game. One of them, a bright, well-educated boy, decided to go grab his father's .22 calibre pistols from under his dad's bed and have a competition of who could load and draw them the fastest. The other boy was on the phone to his girlfriend as they played the game. When she heard the two shots fired, she thought it was them playing a joke on her. Even ten minutes later, when she was getting no response from them, she still thought it was a joke. She hung up; 4 hours later, the first boy's father came home to a grim discovery. His son, who he had educated so well and who knew the dangers of guns, lay on the floor with a bullet in his head. The boy's friend, the one who had been talking to his girlfriend when it happened, lay on the floor as well; a bullet wedged in his spine. He was unable to move, and to this day, remains paralyzed from a simple game.

The tales of kids accidentally shooting their friends or siblings are many. Most follow the same line; one child finds daddy's gun, and decides to play with it. They decide it would be fun to scare their brother/sister. Surely the gun isn't loaded...Oops?

With these three simple statistics, I have to ask, "Why don't they change the gun laws?". In Australia, we have plenty of crimes involving guns, but the vast majority of them involve rifles. Very few involve handguns of any sort. Handguns are basically illegal in Australia. Sure, you can buy them on the black market, but you can buy anything on the black market. The issue at hand isn't the illegal ownership of guns. After all, those 43% of households are LEGALLY owned handguns. The vast majority of those accidental deaths are from LEGALLY owned handguns. The suicides are by and large, LEGALLY owned handguns. Even the crimes; many of those were commited with guns that were either legally owned at the time, or were stolen/borrowed from the legal owners.

As I was saying, to own a handgun here is almost impossible. The first thing you need to do is get a pistol license. There are two types: professional, such as for security officers, and recreational. Having a license does not guarantee you being able to actually OWN a gun, however. You must not only provide proof of a NEED for a handgun, but also provide SECURITY for it. For recreational users, you must be a member of a registered Pistol Club. You must also undergo a police interview. Then, you must PROVE to police that you can safely secure the gun by providing a safe where it is to be kept.

What does it take to get a handgun in USA? Lets take a look at the requirements:-

That's all. Now, the restrictions on users are pretty much accepted policy anywhere, but you really have to love what has been done to the Brady Act. The government instituted a new system to conduct the background checks required by this act. Instead of a 5 day waiting period, you now only have to wait 30 seconds to get your purchase approval.

Here's some stats about gun purchases since the new database was introduced:

From 30th November 1998 to 30th June 1999 a total of 4,726,078 background checks were submitted to the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) during the period. Of these, 2,295,013 were handled by the FBI, 2,431,065 were handled by state "Points of Contact" (POCs). POCs consist of state and local law enforcement agencies contributing data to the NICS and assisting in conducting background checks. Of the 2,295,013 NICS checks done by the FBI during the first months of Brady, 73 percent returned "immediate proceed" results. Average time - 30 seconds. The other 27 percent of checks were delayed, because data outside of the NICS had to be found. When the needed data could be found electronically, delayed checks were typically completed in two hours. 95% of all NICS checks conducted during the first seven months of Brady Act implementation were completed in under two hours.When the NICS check returns disqualifying information on the buyer, the transfer is denied. During the first seven months of NICS operation, the FBI blocked 49,160 gun sales to disqualified persons, a denial rate of 2.13 percent. The FBI estimates that a comparable number of sales have been blocked by state POCs.

4.7 million people wanted to buy a gun in a 7 month period and 1.6 million of the ones checked by the FBI were IMMEDIATELY approved.
Does that scare you?
1.6 million people, within 7 months, told they could have their handgun 5 minutes after walking into a gun shop?
Only 50 thousand people DENIED access to a legal gun?
How many of those 1.6 million people will keep their guns in a locked cabinet or safe?
How many of them will keep the ammunition for their gun right alongside the gun itself?
How many of those 1.6 million people will keep the gun in their bedside table FULLY LOADED?
How many of those 1.6 million people will some day come home to find their child dead from a gunshot?

The answers are simple; NOT ENOUGH for the first question and TOO MANY for the rest. Children's access to guns is far too easy. Something needs to be done to prevent these deaths, yet the United States of America is too scared of the NRA to take a stand.

The NRA and their associates are, in my personal opinion, responsible for many of the deaths from handguns. They may not have pulled the trigger, but their stiff opposition to any law that will help to reduce the incidents of gun related homicides is sickening. When the Brady Act was introduced, they voiced their dislike of the law. It was an invasion upon their civil rights. After all, the 2nd amendment guarantees them the right to own a gun. When laws have been put forth requiring gun security to be in place, they again oppose the change. After all, every American is guaranteed the right to own a gun because of the 2nd amendment. Look at what the NRA did when Australia imposed even stricter controls on rifles and shot guns; they started up an advertising campaign asking Americans not to become a second Australia, because taking those guns away would increase crimes.

What's the truth? Australia has long had restrictions on rifles, though not as strict as they have with pistols, but after Martin Bryant shot and killed 14 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania with a semi-automatic rifle, new laws were passed. Hundreds of thousands of guns were handed in to the government for a compensation value of over 14 million dollars. Since that law was passed, crimes (not just homicides) involving guns were dramatically reduced, but the NRA will say it's infringing on your 2nd amendment rights to restrict gun ownership. Even passing a law that states you must keep your gun safe and secure, away from a child's access, or requiring trigger locks for guns is opposed by the NRA, all because it infringes on your 2nd amendment rights.

So what does the 2nd amendment say?
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

A well-regulated MILITIA.

Now, is Frank next door a member of a well-regulated Militia? Sure, he goes on scout trips with his son, but the scouts are not a militia. The only club he is a member of is his Star Trek club, but he doesn't want anyone to know about that.

Kenny down the road, on the other hand.... Yes, he is secretly a member of the local nutcase urban commando crowd. He is always out there in the woods with his friends, running war games in case Mexico invades Maine. But, are he and his friends necessary for the security of a free state? Isn't that what the National Guard are for? What about the regular armed forces?

You see, the 2nd amendment was written at a time when people were scared of being a federated country. They had just finished fighting the British for their independence. The states did not want the federal government to come in and control everything, so they wanted to guarantee that they could maintain their own armies, or militia. These groups were to protect the state from internal conflicts, such as what happened during the civil war, and from incursions from other nations.

In 1939, the US Supreme Court upheld that the "obvious purpose" of the Second Amendment was to "assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness" of the state militia. In 1965 and again in 1990, the US Supreme Court held that the term "well-regulated militia" refers to the National Guard.

In the early 1980s, the Supreme Court addressed the Second Amendment issue again, after the town of Morton Grove, Illinois, passed an ordinance banning handguns (making certain reasonable exceptions for law enforcement, the military, and collectors). After the town was sued on Second Amendment grounds, the Illinois Supreme Court and the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that not only was the ordinance valid, but there was no individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment (Quillici v. Morton Grove). In October 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of this ruling, allowing the lower court rulings to stand. In 1991, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger was quoted as saying "The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon".

The 2nd amendment is NOT a right to own a gun. It is a right to be a part of a STATE-organized militia.

The other great argument from the NRA is that having a gun in your home makes you safer; it protects you from other people with guns.
What a load of codswallop.
The first, and the easiest, argument against these statements is very simple. How can having a gun beside you protect you when there is already a gun pointed at your head? By the time you actually get hold of the gun, your brains are splattered across the bedroom wall.

There is more to this than just that simple argument; 200 million guns in America, one for almost every man, woman and child. As I said earlier, 43% of homes have a gun in them, 12% of homes have a gun that is not secured in any way, simply kept in a drawer, or even on a shelf, 10% of homes have a loaded gun. With those statistics, it has been proven that you are 22 times more likely to be killed by someone you know than by a stranger. When someone is home, a gun is used for protection in fewer than two percent of home invasion crimes. In 1996, there were only 176 justifiable handgun-related homicides; 176 of the 9390 handgun murders in that year.

When a gun is present in the home, a marital or sibling dispute can quickly erupt into a homicide. According to a 1994 Bureau of Justice statistics report, victims in spousal murders were the most likely to have died from gunshot wounds (53%), compared to victims in other types of family murder. In 1996, 13,788 people were killed using firearms and thousands more were seriously injured. In 1996, firearms were used in 18,166 suicide deaths in America. Among young people, youths aged 10-19 committed suicide with a gun every six hours. That's over 1,300 young people in a single year. A gun in the home also increases the likelihood of an unintentional shooting, particularly among children. In 1996, 1,134 people -- many of them children -- were killed accidentally or unintentionally by firearms.

You want it in plain English? Where there are guns, there are deaths. You bring a gun into your house, and the odds of someone you know dying in your house skyrocket.

What does the rest of America do while all this death and despair rages on? They sit back and watch in apathy. Gun rights groups contributed more than $3.7 million in soft money, PAC, and individual contributions during the 1999-00 election cycle, with more than 90 percent of the money favoring Republicans. That's more than $13 million in contributions since 1990. The National Rifle Association  was the predominant donor of the gun rights lobby, accounting for nearly 90 percent of the interest’s giving over the last decade. Gun control advocates, meanwhile, contributed more than $394,000 in PAC and individual donations during the current election cycle, nearly 95 percent to Democrats. Since 1990, such groups have given $1.3 million in soft money, PAC, and individual contributions, 92 percent to Democrats.

In addition to political contributions, each side of the gun control debate spent large amounts of money to lobby members of Congress and the Clinton administration on the issue. Besides political contributions and lobbying expenditures, the National Rifle Association is one of the handful of special interest groups that also spends millions of dollars on independent expenditures and special communications costs. These are unlimited dollars spent explicitly advocating the election or defeat of a federal candidate, such as taking out newspaper ads or sending pamphlets to membership. By law, these expenditures must be reported to the Federal Election Commission and the group or individual making the expenditures cannot coordinate with the candidate they benefit. Between 1991 and 1998, the NRA spent nearly $12 million on such expenditures, with about $7.3 million spent in favor of Republican candidates.

While the NRA sits there and pumps millions of dollars into the election of pro gun politicians, the rest of the country just sits back and watches, leaving the fight to a small group. When you see the latest high school massacre on the news, you will jump up and down, demanding some type of reform, but 3 months later, when they pass the hat around for contributions, you will turn your back and walk away. When the NRA takes out national advertisements campaigning for the right to own a gun, you will sit back and just let it all happen.

There are three definite positions on the gun issue. There are those that want to keep things as they are, those that want to help stop these deaths from occuring, and then there are those that just sit there and say "it doesnt affect me, so I wont take a side". Those for the issue, despite being misguided by the nazi-like propaganda spouted by the NRA and other special interest groups, have at least made a commitment to their criminal activity. They support the people who oppose everything that will help stop the deaths. (Yes, in my mind, they are all criminals, but at least they know it.) Those against the guns, they are also guilty of propaganda-spreading at times, but again, they have made their choice. They choose to fight for the rights of children to live in a world where they will be free from the constant dangers of guns. As for the fence sitters? I call the NRA criminals, and they are, but those that are there sitting on the fence are also guilty, of criminal negligence. Ignorance does not make you innocent. Instead of TALKING about wanting a better community, FIGHT for a better community. Get off your collective fat asses and do something for the future of your kids.

Yes, the old saying of the NRA is true. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Let's apply the NRA logic to some other situations, shall we? Cars don't kill people, people kill people. How many people die on the roads of America each year? How many of those deaths are DIRECTLY the fault of the car? People built those cars, and people drive those cars. They drive along the road, hit a pothole they didn't see because they were busy playing with the radio, veer across the road and kill four people. The car didn't kill those four; the driver did. The driver did not take proper care. Now, say those four people were in a very old car that was not fitted with seat belts. The car didn't kill them, the people who made the car did. If they had installed seat belts, they may have survived.

Take a look at the history of cars. They have been continually improved so as to prevent the car being a cause of death. We have seatbelts, air bags, intrusion bars, crumple zones...in 1999, major car manufacturers installed inside-trunk latches on new cars because of the 11 children who died by suffocating in locked car trunks. Yet the NRA will not support any laws which make guns safer, which reduce the chance of guns being the reason that children die. Peanuts dont kill people, people kill people. Well, peanuts do kill people; in fact, some schools across America have introduced "peanut-free-zones" because of the high incidence of peanut-product allergies. Every year, governments ban or recall hundreds of products that cause injury or death to very small numbers of children, yet they will not pass laws making guns safer because of the NRA.

Back in 1972, when the Consumer Product Safety Commission was created, the gun lobby's political power ensured that the one product that children live with that is specifically designed to cause death and injury remained exempt. Thus, most handguns have so little trigger resistence that they can be fired by a three-year old, and many guns fire when dropped on the floor. Many popular semi-automatic handguns lack magazine safety-disconnects or load indicators, meaning that children have no way of knowing that a gun that appears unloaded actually has a bullet in the chamber. If a handgun was a toy, it would be banned at the first instance of injury.

I pose a challenge to every person out there:
Give me one good reason why the United States should NOT take a tough stance on guns.
Give me one good reason why placing tougher restrictions on gun ownership should not be allowed.
Give me one good reason why the government should not pass laws that force gun owners to provide guarantees about the safe keeping of their firearms.
This is an impossible challenge. Why? Because there is NO reason why any of these things should not happen. The adults of the world can shoot each other on every street corner for all I care, but why should our children be thrown into the middle of those gun fights? Why should parents have to bury their children because their playmates accidently shot them?

Guns in America are a problem as bad as the drug problem. There may be nothing anyone can do to reduce the incidence of gun related crimes, but there is something that can be done to protect the innocents from accidental deaths. Stand up for the rights of your children. Put an end to the madness that allows anyone over the age of 18 to walk into a gun shop and walk out 5 minutes later with a gun in their pocket. Make it a law that to own a gun, you must prove not only a valid reason for its possession, but also prove that the gun can be safely and securely stored. You may not be able to fight the NRA on a national level, but there are many cities and states that have already taken this step forward. Such a small number, however, is not enough to convince the politicians that they don't need the NRA's money or votes. The children need your help. Lets give it to them.

References and quotes taken from the following sources:

Recommended reading for EVERYONE. If you want to try and argue for the pro gun side, you'd better go read this site first.

Official US Government information on gun control issues and laws.


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