At the New York Times, the saddest piece: about the severe underreporting of accidental child gun deaths, and the way these incorrect statistics are deployed to support pro-gun positions, such as the opposition of safe storage laws, which less than 20 states currently have in place.
Compiling a complete census of accidental gun deaths of children is difficult, because most states do not consider death certificate data a matter of public record. In a handful of states, however, the information is publicly available. [...] The Times sought to identify every accidental firearm death of a child age 14 and under in Georgia, Minnesota, North Carolina and Ohio dating to 1999, and in California to 2007. [...] The goal, in the end, was an in-depth portrait of accidental firearm deaths of children, one that would shed light on how such killings occur and might be prevented. In all, The Times cataloged 259 gun accidents that killed children ages 14 and younger. The youngest was just 9 months old, shot in his crib.
In four of the five states — California, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio — The Times identified roughly twice as many accidental killings as were tallied in the corresponding federal data. In the fifth, Minnesota, there were 50 percent more accidental gun deaths.
Lucas’s father, Joshua Heagren, had tried to teach the 3-year-old to respect firearms. The boy had gotten a .22 rifle for Christmas, and his father showed him how to fire it. But he also warned him to handle it only when an adult was present.
It is obviously absurd to expect a kid, especially a boy raised in America at this particular moment, to not touch a murder weapon that's been culturally magnetized as a totem and happens to just be lying casually around the house; the Times cites studies that prove this.
Researchers watched through a one-way mirror as pairs of boys ages 8 to 12 were left alone in an examination room at a clinic in Atlanta. Unknown to the children, an inoperative .38-caliber handgun was concealed in a cabinet drawer. Playing and exploring over the next 15 minutes, one boy after another — three-quarters of the 64 children — found the gun. Two-thirds handled it, and one-third actually pulled the trigger. Just one child went to tell an adult about the gun, and he was teased by his peers for it. More than 90 percent of the boys said they had had some gun safety instruction.
The NRA claims on its website that adult criminals mishandling firearms are the ones responsible for the majority of accidental child shootings. In contrast, the Times' investigation found that the "vast majority of cases revolved around children’s access to firearms, with the shooting either self-inflicted or done by another child."
Photo via theloushe/Flickr