I Choose Life, and That Means No Guns Under My Roof

gunAs the debate about gun control rages on in America, we haven’t heard much about children’s access to guns.

The New York Times is changing that. A front-page report this week, “Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll,” reveals some pretty startling numbers.

The paper says it looked at 259 accidental firearm deaths of children 14 and younger, and more than half were not recorded as accidents. Why? Because most deaths in which one person shoots another are classified by authorities as homicides rather than accidents.

The Times argues that this news is a game-changer in regards to how we think about accidental gun deaths among children. Specifically, because so many accidental child gun deaths are not classified as accidents, the Times says America has dropped the ball when it comes to creating “safe storage” laws and developing childproof technology.

As Yahoo notes, several heartbreaking accidental gun deaths are detailed in the Times to illustrate that point, including the following:

Matthew Underhill, a staff sergeant in the Army, was mowing the lawn while his wife, Tessa, was in the house watching television with their 5-year-old son, Matthew. Their other son, Tristan, 2, was scampering down a hallway toward the bedrooms.

It had been a good day for Tristan. He had used the potty for the first time. He and his mother had danced a little jig. Down the hall, Tristan entered the bedroom where his father had been staying because of quarrels with his wife. She had chided her husband in the past for forgetting to safely store his .45-caliber handgun. But he had recently put a lock on his door to keep out his wife and children. He thought he had locked the door before going out to cut the grass.

Tristan Underhill, 2, died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound after he found his father’s gun under a pillow in an unlocked bedroom.

The lock, though, had failed to catch. Tristan found the loaded gun under the pillow on his father’s bed. He pointed it at his own forehead and pulled the trigger. Hearing the gunshot, Sergeant Underhill sprinted inside to find Tristan face down on the bed, the gun beneath him. When he called 911, the sergeant was screaming so hysterically that the dispatcher initially mistook him for a woman.

“My 2-year-old just shot himself in the head,” he said breathlessly. “He’s dead.”

Gun rights advocates claim the paper’s use of child killings is sensational, with one commenter pointing out, “For every child death from a gun, 100 drown in pools.”

My answer to that is SO. WHAT?

What do gun rights advocates care if we create safe storage laws or develop childproof technology? Why all the backlash against background checks? You can still arm yourself to the teeth if you want; you just can’t have a criminal record or a history of mental illness or keep your loaded gun in your nightstand or under your pillow. If you’re a responsible gun owner, and you should be, why are these things even issues?

It’s worth noting that of all the child shooting deaths the Times reviewed, both the shooter and victim were male in more than 80 percent of the cases. “Time and again, boys could not resist handling a gun, disregarding repeated warnings by adults and, sometimes, their own sense that they were doing something wrong.”

I’ll never have a gun in my home. I’d rather not be armed if an intruder creeps into my room at night. Guns change the dynamics of a conflict instantly, increasing the likelihood of death: the intruder’s or mine. Yes, I also realize that a gun might come in handy should an intruder come creeping — but, as the scenario could play out either way, I choose not to have a gun in my home. For me, the years of gun ownership vs. the possibility of an intruder don’t make owning deadly weapons worth it. I don’t want to live in fear, —fear of a possible intruder or fear of one of my children playing with guns.

We hear too often: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Fair enough. But guns change how people kill people, and they change how people view killing. When someone has a gun the question of how they respond to a situation changes, for better or worse, because they have an option that they didn’t have before. These changes are what we need to be discussing if we want to be able to advocate effectively for or against gun control. We need to ask ourselves questions like whether guns make individuals more or less inclined towards confrontation –

If you want weapons in your home, that’s certainly your decision and your constitutional right and I absolutely support that. I also support creating safe storage laws and funding technology to make guns as childproof as possible. But guns scare me, they don’t comfort me. As a parent, I don’t feel like owning a gun offers me or my children any more protection than not owning a gun. There have been too many accidental shootings, too many situations where someone wouldn’t be dead if somebody else didn’t own a gun to act as counterpoint to the scenario of a person shooting an intruder that would’ve killed them had they not had their trusty piece in their nightstand.

In other words, I choose life which, for me, means no guns under my roof.

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