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article imageOp-Ed: Fatal shooting stirs debate about parental responsibility

By Duane Buell     May 18, 2013 in Politics
Burkesville - Parents across the country are asking, Why was a child allowed to play with a loaded rifle unsupervised in the first place?
No one wants to live through the anguish of losing a child to a tragic shooting, but the debate heating up around marketing files and firearms for children is focusing on the wrong issue. Children all across the country live in rural areas where firearms are not only owned by many families, but having them is a necessity. I believe that kids should be taught firearm use early when weapons are in the home, but that must include parents being responsible to securing the weapon after the child is taught how to use it safely under adult supervision. This is a decision that needs to be made by parents, not governments and laws. Some kids are ready to learn safe handling of a firearm at 5, but others may not be. Cumberland County Coroner Gary White told WKYT-TV, the children’s mother was home at the time of the shooting, but has stepped out onto the porch for “no more than three minutes.” “It’s a Cricket” said White, in reference to a company that specifically makes guns, clothes and books for children. “It’s a rifle for a little kid. The little boy’s used to shooting the little gun.” The shooting was an accident, said White who told the Lexington Herald Leader the boy received the rifle as a gift. It was kept in a corner and the family failed to realize that a round was still in the chamber.
Milton Pennsylvania is home to Keystone Sporting Arms and according to the company’s website, it produced about 60,000 Cricket and Chipmunk rifles in 2008. Most of its product are geared toward children although it does make products for adults. The company’s website has a “Kids Corner” section where boys and girls are pictured on shooting ranges and hunting scenes. According to the company’s website “The goal of KSA is to instill gun safety in the minds of youth shooters and to encourage them to gain the knowledge and respect that hunting and shooting activities require and deserve.”
James McNeal, author of the 1999 book “The Kids Market: Myths and Realities” decries the advertising targeted toward children. He says “Ever since I can remember, harmful products, including weapons, have been marketed to children in more ways than I can count. And ever since I can remember there have been laws and organizations that could have prevented it, and didn’t, and don’t.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation president Steve Sarnetti told the New York Times That the parents, not the Government, should be the ones to decide if and when, they want to introduce their children to shooting and firearms. “It’s a very significant decision, and it involves the personal responsibility of the parent and the personal responsibility of the child.” Firearms expert, TJ Johnson, who endorses the National Rifle Association’s “Eddie Eagle” Program says the marketing of firearms is not the problem, but it’s access. He told MSN News “Every gun owner has a major responsibility to make sure that any unauthorized person does not have access to a firearm.” The National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program teaches children pre kindergarten through third grade the four steps to take if they find a firearm: Stop, don’t touch it, leave the area, find an adult and tell them about it.
The NRA has been a long time donor to youth shooting programs, and says firearms education and training has substantially reduced the number of firearms accidents. The NRA says on it’s website “Today the odds are more than a million to one, against a child in the U.S., dying in a firearms accident.” According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, most of the states already have laws to prevent children from getting access to firearms, including Kentucky.
Burkesville, Kentucky is in the rural foothills of the Appalachian Mountains about 90 miles northeast of Nashville Tennessee.
On a personal note, I’m a life member of the NRA particularly because of the gun safety training programs it offers, but also because I’m a firm believer in our Second amendment rights. I believe that children should be taught firearm safety and use otherwise they will never learn it. Learning archery, firearm use and safety, target shooting and hunting teaches children necessary life skills, such as Personal Responsibility, Ethics and even morality. Every child however is different. Some will be ready to learn how to use a BB gun, crossbow or rifle earlier than others. This is a parents choice to make and it’s a big decision, but as a life member of the NRA, could I make a few suggestions without insulting anyone? I’m not trying to add to the pain of those who lost children to shootings, but I feel there are things that must be cleared up.
*If you are going to get your child a firearm, congratulations, but first, learn your self how to load and unload it, how it operates and use it yourself. Firearms meant for kids are very likely to have differences between the ones we use as adults if for no other reason than their size. When you are ready to give it as a gift to your kids, you should be completely familiar yourself as to how it operates. Don’t assume anything.
*Make sure when you take your children out to shoot, you have ample time to give them your undivided attention. Show them that you do NOT point the end of the rifle at anything you don’t intend to shoot and to learn treat every gun like it’s loaded, whether it is or not. (Using a weapon for personal defense can come later)
*You must make them understand that a gun is NOT a toy and when they are through with it, YOU will take the gun and lock it in a safe explaining to them that when they want to use it, they will have to be with you until they are old enough to handle it on their own. This is a decision that you as the parent will have to determine when the time is right.
* Make them understand that it’s never to early to learn good habits when it comes to firearm safety. Make sure you do the same yourself.
I want all parents to have a long healthy relationship with our Nations firearms heritage so they grow up to appreciate our Constitution and our Second Amendment rights. We have a Nation and Republic built around our freedoms. Ethics and Personal Responsibility teaches us that freedom isn’t free and that rights must continuously be fought for. It’s up to the parents how young their children should be when educated in that and when to start them off learning those life skills. But no amount of Government involvement, creation of new laws, or organizations can stop accidental shootings or even gun violence until those lessons begin at home. Our Nations freedoms and Heritage depend on it.
And don’t forget that in the space of 2 or 3 minutes, children have fallen into swimming pools and drowned. Walked out into traffic and were hit by a car. Fallen down a flight of stairs. Or otherwise were killed or badly injured in accidents.
As always I appreciate your feedback to my articles, just please be respectful of others.
You can also find this article as well as many others on The Buell Review.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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