Kentucky: Boy, 5, Kills Sister, 2

That’s not my headline.  It was in the New York Times earlier this month, in the section where the paper provides short blurbs about what is happening around the country.

My youngest daughter is in kindergarten.  Here is a list of some of the things that she either cannot do or is not allowed to do: cross a busy street by herself; pour milk from a full gallon jug; ride in a car without a booster seat; and tie her shoes (I know . . . she’s working on that one).  She is, however, a highly capable kid.  So it might be fairer to her if I listed some of what she can do:  get herself ready for school; ride her bike around the block; make her bed; use a variety of electronic devices that begin with an “i”.

But regardless of whether the list is of “cannots” or “cans,” it does not square with this statement from the county coroner in Kentucky:

 Mr. White said that the .22-caliber rifle had been kept in a corner and that the family had not realized a bullet was left inside it. “It’s a Crickett,” Mr. White said, referring to a company that makes guns, clothes and books for children.  “It’s a little rifle for a kid,” he said, adding, “The little boy’s used to shooting the little gun.”

I grew up in a small Wisconsin town.  At my high school, so many teachers and students were absent on the first day of deer season that school might as well have been cancelled.  Today some of my close relatives keep hunting rifles in their closets.  So while I absolutely do not want to suggest that I know anything about the family that suffered this terrible tragedy, I am familiar with the kind of culture in which a .22-caliber rifle is put in a corner.

Which is not to say that I wasn’t jarred by the phrase “a company that makes guns, clothes and books for children.”  Or that I expected, when I visited Crickett’s website, to see child-sized guns in bright blue and pink.   And watch out Joe Camel, because Crickett’s mascot is a jolly green frog sporting a rifle, boots, and a hunting cap.

Footbinding, smoking, drunk driving—these are all legend among law and norms scholars.  But with few exceptions, almost no one talks about trying to change gun culture through the sort of small, incremental changes that have made such a difference elsewhere.  Certainly it is daunting to even think about how to spark change.  And it’s also true that those whose ideas would make a difference would only receive posthumous gratification, because change might not actually be realized until my kindergartener has great-grandchildren.

But Boy, 5, Kills Sister, 2.

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17 Responses

  1. Brett Bellmore says:

    As I tell people, this is why most gun control proposals are so imbecilic when looked at as actual crime control measures: Because they aren’t fighting a war against crime, they’re fighting a war against a culture they hate, and want to destroy.

    Well, I don’t particularly like your culture either, keep that in mind. I find it revolting in many ways. So, I suppose you won’t mind if I turn the force of the state to the purpose of destroying your culture?

  2. Bruce Boyden says:

    Great post, Sarah.

  3. Anon says:

    Reckless endangerment of a child is not culture, Brett. It is indefensible to leave children unsupervised access to firearms. And profit is a poor reason to justify it, as well.

    PS – directing the force of the state against lawbreakers is what we do as a society. We do it with DUIs, why not here?

  4. Brett Bellmore says:

    How can it be reckless endangerment if the rate of death is so small? Isn’t there some minimum threshold of “danger” before it becomes “endangerment”? Somewhere above zero, I mean. Perhaps we can take the level of regulation abortion has been subject to, as a hint where that level would be set.

    “Lawbreakers” are what we call anybody the state decides to direct it’s force against, the term has no moral force apart from the virtue of the particular cause in which that force is deployed. It does no work at all.

  5. Ron says: “by Steven D. Levitt, Professor of Economics, University of Chicago

    [Editor’s note: A version of this piece was published in the Chicago Sun-Times on July 28, 2001 under the title “Pools more dangerous than guns.” ]

    What’s more dangerous: a swimming pool or a gun? When it comes to children, there is no comparison: a swimming pool is 100 times more deadly. . . .

  6. A.P. says:

    excellent post!

  7. Christine Hurt says:

    More children are killed in swimming pools than by guns, but that doesn’t make putting a deadly weapon in the hand of a 5 year-old a safer decision than taking him to the pool. When my Dad bought my 6 year-old a .22, I negotiated down to a BB gun. It’s hard to do permanent damage to a human with a BB gun if you point it at the human and it goes off, but it’s almost certain you will cause severe injury or death if you point a .22 at a human and it goes off. And little kids point things at people.

  8. Brett Bellmore says:

    “More children are killed in swimming pools than by guns, but that doesn’t make putting a deadly weapon in the hand of a 5 year-old a safer decision than taking him to the pool.”

    No, actually it does. Literally, exactly, mathematically, it does. Just because the idea of letting children have firearms with proper oversight outrages you doesn’t erase the actual record of safety.

    I could probably take my son rock climbing, and you wouldn’t blink, but I propose to take him along rabbit hunting, you’ll freak, even though the latter is, empirically, safer than the former. You really need to engage in a bit of introspection, realize you’re letting your biases overcome your rationality.

    My generation grew up in that culture you want to erase. Survived firearms stored in closets, not locked safes, survived learning to shoot while in the single digits. Your freaking out isn’t going to convince us that our own parents were being irresponsible, when we have the experience to tell us the opposite.

  9. jdgalt says:

    @Brett: Non sequitur. The question of which is a safer decision depends on what fraction of the time each action (putting a weapon in Junior’s hand or letting him swim) results in tragedy; and I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that thousands of times more parents let him swim than let him shoot. Thus a greater total number of deaths while swimming does not imply that swimming is the safer alternative.

  10. Shag from Brookline says:

    For those who don’t know where Brett is coming from, or do know and would like more details, just Google:

    The militia movement + Brett Bellmore

    Sounds like a libertarian moving towards anarchy.

  11. Joe says:

    “Children” is a broad term. Minors are going to use guns (the real ones) but there are some basic rules that should be followed, including when a five year old might misuse guns. If we have pets, leaving dangerous solvents around that said pets might consume is something we should not do. If we have young children, basic rules of safety should apply here.

    More than one person has been turned off about marketing that sells guns to minors. Oh look, mommy, a Hello Kitty gun for my Hello Kitty backpack!!!! Minors do use guns though. Twelve year olds, let’s say, shoot with their parents. We don’t want them smoking. We do let twelve year olds hunt, fish and target shoot.

    Basic safety is something there can be wide agreement on as much as basic gun regulations like background checks.

  12. Brett Bellmore says:

    “Hello Kitty” guns are mostly a matter of humor on the part of adults, I hope you realize, rather than being made for children.

  13. Shag from Brookline says:

    This is Brett’s idea of adult humor?

    Recruitment/basic training for joining the militia movement?

  14. Brett Bellmore says:

    No, that’s not *my* idea of humor, but neither is George Carlin, and I still manage to recognize he’s supposed to be a comedian.

    I suppose you think Tom Lehrer actually poisoned pigeons in the park, too.

  15. Shag from Brookline says:

    Did George Carlin or Tom Lehrer comment or write a song on “Hello Kitty” guns?

    Young children, including 4 year olds, are not born with hatred, prejudice or a need for guns. Sometimes that learning comes from parents.

    Perhaps Brett can tell us just what “Hello Kitty” guns are a matter of on the part of young children with respect to the marketing in the #14 link. Is it humor?

    Brett is of course an adult, so I assumed he included himself in his #13 as humor.

  16. Joe says:

    It was something of a joke.

    Seriously, a search suggests the rifles for young girls including Hello Kitty pink but the cutesy animal of choice is a cricket.

    They need to update that Christmas classic.