Skip to main content

Why Accidental Shootings Shouldn't Be A Factor In The Gun Control Debate

You can't legislate against stupidity.

On Jan. 20, a 45-year-old New Orleans grandmother was arrested and charged with negligent homicide after she was napping in bed with her 3-year-old grandson and her handgun -- which was under her pillow -- discharged and sent a round through the boy's chest and killed him, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

Like almost every tragedy involving guns, both sides of the gun control debate will trot out tired arguments and won't think twice about politicizing another tragedy. To them, it's just another life in the abstract, a newspaper headline that can be contorted in support or against gun control.

But here's the question the idealogues won't ask: What was the gun doing under a pillow in the first place?

Every year people Darwin themselves out of existence, and there's no shortage of jaw-droppingly stupid examples to draw from when it comes to illustrating how new laws won't make people smarter:

- In January 2015, a Cincinnati cop shot himself in the abdomen while riding in an elevator, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. He wasn't chasing a suspect. He wasn't in danger. He was having a conversation with a woman in the elevator, surveillance footage shows, when he pulled his gun out for reasons still unknown and fumbled the weapon, leading to the discharge of a single shot.

- In 2013, a Florida man named Gregory Dale Lanier inexplicably had his 9mm pistol on the floor of his pickup truck while he was driving, according to the New York Daily News. His dog was also in the car, and it was the dog who kicked the gun, resulting in one round going through Lanier's leg. Dog shoots man. Sounds like a joke, doesn't it?

- In September 2015, South Dakota's Donald Anthony Watson was rushed to the local emergency room after taking a round to his penis, the Argus Leader noted at the time. He told cops the shot was fired by "a black guy" who was trying to rob him outside his house, but detectives realized his story didn't fit with statements from neighbors. After a search of Watson's home revealed an empty gun case, bullet fragments and a pool of blood, Watson admitted he shot himself while looking at a gun he was considering buying -- when he placed the gun in his pocket, the weapon discharged, hitting him in the genitals. Watson was a convicted felon who wasn't allowed to own a gun but that didn't stop him from trying to buy another.

There are hundreds of examples just as confounding as the stories above, and the only lesson that should be drawn from them is that lawmakers can't outlaw carelessness, ignorance and clumsiness.

The thing is, stupidity isn't a reason to curtail freedoms. The Second Amendment doesn't include a caveat that says Americans have the right to bear arms until an arbitrary number of absurd incidents and self-inflicted gun wounds is reached.

People who want the government to exert more control over firearms like to point out that gun owners are more likely to get injured or killed by their own weapons as they are likely to stop a home invader. That's true -- the conservative dream of the heroic gun owner saving his family from evildoers is just that, a dream.

But what the pro- gun-control types don't like to admit is that a 2013 CDC study found that gun ownership is a significant crime deterrent, while noting “stolen guns account for only a small percentage of guns used by convicted criminals.” Likewise, studies have shown that most accidental gun deaths involving children could be prevented if the gun-owning parents took basic safety measures, like locking weapons away and fitting them with child safety locks, which are available for free from most local police departments.

What happened in New Orleans was a tragedy, and no one can replace the young life that was lost, but we must make sure that arguments over gun control policy aren't settled by emotion in the wake of tragedies like the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. As Americans, we also have the responsibility to make sure we have good reasons to curtail freedoms and that means guns shouldn't be taken away from the general public because some people are irresponsible gun owners.

Sources: New Orleans Times-Picayune, Centers for Disease Control, Argus Leader, New York Daily News, Cincinnati Enquirer

Photo source: Wikimedia Commonslifesizepotato/Flickr

Popular Video