The 12-year-old Sparks, Nevada, boy who killed a teacher, wounded two other students, and then killed himself earlier this week used a 9mm semi-automatic Ruger he brought from home.
That was followed by news that a 19-year-old baby sitter in Texas was arrested after she took a nap with her gun nearby, and a five-year-old used it to kill himself.
The weapons used in both crimes fell into the wrong hands because of careless or irresponsible behavior by their owners, a persistent problem gun advocates prefer to ignore. Outfits like the NRA won’t discuss the issue, but they’ll fight any laws that try to curb the problem.
Gun advocates are big on cracking down on criminals who illegally possess weapons, and nobody can argue with that position. Left unsaid is how many of those criminals acquire their weapons.
In a study conducted in the ’80s, two sociologists asked 2,000 men convicted of gun-related crimes how they acquired their weapons. Half of them said the guns were stolen, and another 20 percent said they were “probably” stolen.
Things haven’t changed much since then. An estimated 500,000 guns go missing every year and end-up in criminal hands, but police get little help from gun owners.
Author Dan Baum reports that owners hate reporting stolen guns to police and consider it tyranny if they even have to admit they own guns. As a consequence, only seven states and the District of Columbia have laws that mandate the reporting of stolen guns.
There are other tragic consequences to careless gun ownership. Accidental child death is one of the few gun statistics that has grown since 1999, and almost half of teenagers who kill themselves do it with a gun.
Then there’s the shootings every year by people who aren’t criminals until they pick up a gun. Tempers flare, a gun is nearby, and tragedy ensues.
The obvious solution to these tragedies is to make sure guns are properly secured, but just 27 states and DC require guns to be locked up, trigger-locked, stored separately from ammunition, or some combination of the three. In most states, punishment is mild for those who ignore the law or use haphazard security.
As Baum, a gun owner and author of “Gun Guys: A Road Trip,” wrote recently:
“We gun guys are operating under a double standard. We want to be left alone to buy, use and carry guns because, we say, we understand firearms better than any bureaucrat. But at the same time enough of us behave so carelessly that thousands of people are needlessly killed, injured or victimized by guns left laying around.”
Orange County, Texas, chief Sheriff’s Deputy Clint Hodgkinson put it this way when announcing the arrest of the baby sitter: “People have the right to bear arms, and with it comes great responsibility.”