Op-Ed: Toddlers shoot someone else or themselves every week in U.S.

Posted Oct 14, 2015 by Karen Graham
From time to time, a toddler gets hold of a hand gun and either kills himself or more often, another child or relative. The only time it really makes the front page is when a mother is killed. But in the U.S., it has become a weekly occurrence.
An array of hand guns.
An array of hand guns.
Jushua Sheam
Just the other day, a two-year-old in South Carolina found a handgun in a pouch behind the front seat of a car he was riding in and shot his grandmother in the back. Luckily, the woman wasn't killed.
In January this year, a three-year-old toddler in New Mexico wounded both his parents with one gunshot.The list goes on, more frequently than most people realize. One reporter with the Washington Post decided to do a bit of research on shootings involving children from one to three years of age, and the results are startling.
Christopher Ingraham found that there were 43 shootings by toddlers in the U.S. so far this year. We are in the 42nd. week of 2015, so that's one shooting by a toddler every week, so far this year. We could look at this statistic another way, saying only 43 children under the age of four happened to pick up a gun and shoot someone else or themselves. But this way of thinking is no different than looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.
Let's break the data down a bit further. So far this year, 13 toddlers have shot and killed themselves. Another 18 shot and injured themselves. Another 10 people were injured by a toddler with a firearm, and last, but not least, two toddlers shot and killed other people. These numbers don't include the children that pick up a gun laying around and fire it but don't hit anyone. Those instances don't make the front page.
The stories are almost always the same. In February this year, three-year-old Alexis Mercer of LeBleu Settlement in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, found a handgun her father had just cleaned and left on a living room table. She shot and killed herself. In July, a Shreveport three-year-old found a gun and shot himself in the face. Luckily, he survived, reports The Times-Picayune.
Keeping guns locked up in the home
The NRA and gun-control advocates have differing opinions on whether to keep guns in the home under lock-and-key. Gun-control advocates say that more than two-thirds of gun accidents involving toddlers could have been avoided if the guns had been locked up inside the home, and this is a reasonable assumption.
Believe it or not, but almost 70 percent of Americans agree that guns should be locked up in the home, something the National Rifle Association and its allies oppose. The NRA advocates that more guns are the solution, and not gun locks or the use of "smart gun" technologies, which do exist.
It is difficult to imagine why any group, including the NRA, would not want to encourage gun owners to keep firearms locked up in the home, or promote the use of "smart guns." Gun owners are required to have background checks before buying a firearm, so with the purchase should go the responsibility for keeping the gun out of the reach of children. This responsibility should also include being the party to be charged with a crime if a child finds and uses the gun to either shoot themselves or someone else.