Last week — in what was likely the first gun-related death of a child in 2017 — 5th-grader Ian Sevostjanov of Clearwater, Florida, died at the hands of a firearm registered to his parents. The 10-year-old had been sent to another room for a timeout before school when his mother, Olga Grusetskaja, heard the fatal shot.
In a news conference following the incident, Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter said medics did “everything they could” to try to save the boy’s life, but were unsuccessful. Ian was pronounced dead at the scene. So far, Ian’s death is being treated as a suicide; but as the details surrounding his death have been made public, it’s raised some serious concerns about gun ownership and safety — especially in homes with young children.
“There are rules and restrictions on making sure that you keep a gun in a safe manner that’s not accessible to a child,” Slaughter noted in a recent press conference. He continued:
“I think it’s just a responsible thing to do as a gun owner. I’m not in a position to debate the Second Amendment here or anything, but with certain rights … in the Constitution come great, great responsibility. And if a person chooses to own a firearm there is responsibility for them to keep that in a safe location.”
Among other things, how the gun was stored — and how it was able to make its way so easily into the hands of a 10-year-old — will also be under investigation.
Sadly, gun deaths involving children are nothing new. According to the group Everytown for Gun Safety, by the end of 2015, about 265 children under the age of 18 have shot someone by accident, and 83 of those shootings were fatal. In 2016, 247 shootings occurred by the hands of children age 17 or younger, who either “accidentally shot themselves, accidentally shot their parents, or accidentally shot other children.”
But here’s perhaps the most alarming stat of all: A toddler has shot and killed someone every week in the last two years. Every. single. week.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
Regardless of where you stand on gun laws, it seems impossible not to come to the conclusion here that something has to be done. There are nearly 1.7 million children living in households where guns are stored either loaded or not locked away, according to the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. That statistic is frightening as a mother (and non-gun owner) when I think about the number of homes my children enter that are not my own. And, even if you’re not one of those 1.7 million and do follow precautions to lock away your gun, 300 million Americans live in a household with a firearm present. The chances of my child coming into contact with a gun at some point in their childhood is almost a given.
I guess I can always hope for stricter gun laws. But I don’t know many parents pinning the safety of their children on hope, do you?
So what can parents do? Gun groups say there needs to be more effort made by parents to ensure that guns (both their own and those in any home their child enters) are locked up safely and out of reach. Some gun instructors have also shared that they feel all kids should be taught about gun safety — whether or not they live in a home with a gun — and that teaching the subject in public schools might actually be a worthwhile precaution.
I’ll be honest; my initial response to that one was: “Are you freaking KIDDING me?!? This isn’t the answer. This type of thinking is the problem!” But here’s the thing: I want my kids to be safe. And the statistics are not in their favor. Ignoring the issue or “hoping” it goes away has never worked in parenting children, and it certainly won’t work on the issue of guns in America.More On