Toddler’s death not just a ‘crazy accident’

I happened across this story posted yesterday by the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky:

A 5-year-old boy who was playing with a .22-caliber rifle accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old sister in Cumberland County on Tuesday afternoon, according to a news release from the state police.

The shooting happened just after 1 p.m. at a home on Lawson’s Bottom Road.

The 2-year-old was taken to Cumberland County Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. An autopsy has been scheduled for Wednesday.

Cumberland County Coroner Gary White identified the girl as Caroline Starks.

He said the children’s mother was at home when the shooting occurred, and the gun was a gift the boy received last year.

“It’s a Crickett,” he said. “It’s a little rifle for a kid. …The little boy’s used to shooting the little gun.”

White said the gun was kept in a corner, and the family did not realize a shell had been left in it.
He said the shooting will be ruled accidental.

“Just one of those crazy accidents,” White said.

No. No, no, no.

This is not “just one of those crazy accidents.” This is negligence, it’s deadly malfeasance, it’s a crime.

Gifting a deadly firearm to a 5-year-old is questionable at best, but leaving it loaded and standing in a corner where he can reach it unattended is criminal.

“Well, it’s Kentucky…” won’t fly – Kentucky is still part of the United States of America, not some third-world backwater. And don’t dare say, “Well, they have a different gun culture there;” any culture that allows for any number of toddlers being shot to death isn’t a culture at all, it’s a sickness.

This is not the price of freedom.

I’ve spent a significant chunk of my professional time since late December writing gun-policy stories, but this tragedy isn’t debatable. Gun-rights enthusiasts – sane ones, at least, must be horrified by a story like this; it goes against every tenet of responsible gun ownership, every tenet of parenting, every tenet of humanity.

We ignore such stories at our own souls’ peril.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • MichaelB

    Yes, it’s a tragedy, it was horrible and irresponsible on the part of the parents/guardians (who should have known better).

    What are you trying to make “fly” by publicizing this? Everyone who has a gun is just as incompetent/irresponsible as these people were? If you support gun ownership you are somehow in “favor” of toddlers being shot to death? That sounds like the SOP for the gun control movement – everyone who has a gun is just plain “nuts”, they are a disaster/accident waiting to happen or are all “collectively” guilty when one person messes up. That sounds like a “sickness” to me.

    California already has laws that hold parents responsible if they don’t secure guns from children. So how does that stop criminal activity involving guns on the streets that people are concerned about?
    Don’t dare say that passing a national “storage” law is going to “solve” the problem of deliberate misuse of firearms by adults.

  • Josh Richman

    Don’t put words in my mouth, Michael – I know perfectly well that most gun owners aren’t so criminally irresponsible. And nothing I said has anything to do with deliberate street crime.

    I do think it’s proof positive that there should be basic standards of education and responsibility for gun owners, and that anyone who shrugs it off as “just one of those crazy accidents” isn’t fit to serve in any public office.

    Would you rather that the public never know that things like this happen?

  • GonzoG

    It was an accident. These things by their nature can not be predicted or prevented. But they can, and are, routinely exploited.

    To use this to advance a private political is to reduce that lost child life to the level of an inanimate object and is as vile and inhuman as any act them may have contributed to it.

  • Erik Nelson

    Josh, I’m not a rabid proponent of banning guns. I think that what’s missing from the debate is the ability to talk about this issue reasonably. In my mind, you have hit upon where all reasonable people should draw the line. You should no more give a 5-year-old a real gun than you should give that kid a real car to run over his sister with. This should be treated the same way any other type of criminal negligence should be treated. Had the mom left a bag of magic mushrooms on the table and the kid went to the hospital and survived, she’d be facing serious prison time. With a gun, it’s just one of those things. Now that’s crazy.

  • MichaelB

    That’s right. Nothing you DID say has anything to do with the major problems involving firearms, criminal violence and/or how to address it. That should be the focus and the public should know because that is the problem.

    How many accidents like this take place in our nation in terms of numbers/percentage of the population? I suspect the number isn’t that high. Groups like the NRA already offer safety standards/training courses to prevent these kind of incidents. Gun clubs have safety rules/range officers and remove those customers who don’t comply with them. Gun manufacturers will often provide free safety literature to their customers. Will the public ever hear about that?

    Or that so called “progressive” groups cringe at the idea of gun safety being taught in schools because they think it’s an “indoctrination” effort by the “gun lobby” to sell guns to kids?

    I am shrugging off the use/promotion of emotional appeals (that gun control supporters have a long habit of using because of the poor record of success with their legislation) to pass more legislation that doesn’t solve problems. The burden of proof should be on those wanting more regulations in a free society. Not the other way around.

    Do you really know “perfectly well” and think it’s “proof positive”? Sounds nice to say “let’s have standards and education”, doesn’t it? But consider who wants them made mandatory with new laws. The same politicians/activists/special interest organizations that complain about “too many” guns, supports bans, thinks the 2nd Amendment is not an individual right, praises other governments that don’t allow gun ownership at all, doesn’t want gun shops/shows operating in their communities, etc. It’s a credibility issue. The gun control movement has none.

  • MichaelB


    I could probably get a number of people who own guns to agree there are codes of conduct/standards of performance required to own/use/store them. And that these same people would agree that convicted felons and mentally ill people should not have them at all.

    But the gun control movement (despite claims to the contrary) is not “reasonable”. The leadership has an emotional ax to grind, thinks that guns “cause” violence and will not admit that their policies have not been effective.

    Their idea of a “debate” is what needs to be banned/restricted next and a “negotiation” is what more you need to give up to them.

  • Josh Richman

    @5&6 – CDC reported 851 deaths by accidental discharge of firearm in 2011, roughly 3 percent of the 32,163 total firearm deaths that year; about 61 percent of the total were suicides and about 35 percent were homicides. I’ll be curious to see what the figures are for 2012, given the big uptick in firearms purchases through last year.

    But, sorry, I don’t buy the “lefties want more than this, so we can’t allow anything at all” argument. I don’t see how requiring new gun owners to take a safety class impedes anyone’s constitutional rights – perhaps it would give people pause about giving deadly weapons to 5-year-olds and leaving them loaded, laying around the house.

    And even if there’s no legislation to address it, I’d hope that reporting a horrorshow like this would at least remind some people not to be so f—ing careless, lest their own kid be next.

  • JohnW

    I’ll bet if Senators Joe Manchin (D-WVA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) proposed a law prohibiting gun ownership by anyone under the age of six, the bill would be defeated.

    Gun deaths like this are far too many, tragic and completely preventable. But my main passions on gun violence are the gun trafficking that feeds the violence in places like Oakland and, increasingly, places like the Oakland Hills, and gun massacres by the mentally deranged.

  • MichaelB


    Well, obviously there were not too many “careless” ones if only 851 people were killed by gun accidents in a nation of about 300 million with roughly same number of guns in circulation, were there?

    Where are all of these people that need to be “reminded” and “given pause”? I’d say that was a good safety record, not a bad one. You can do the math – 851 vs. 300,000,000 in a nation with a “gun culture” that the left wing constantly complains about.

    But we just “need” the mandatory/required safety class for gun owners anyway because it’s “for the kids”. Some of us can see how this kind of reasoning (or lack of it) can be used to justify any regulation. If you don’t like the safety class, you are in “favor” of people giving guns to 5-year-olds!

  • RR senile columnist

    Violence is as American as apple pie, said H Rap Brown, an otherwise forgettable idiot who tried to cash in on Black Power as his road to success. He was not, altogether, wrong.

  • JohnW

    I’ll bet there are quite a few accidental gun shootings in addition to the deaths.

    One of my nephews works in a gun store/shooting range in the Detroit area. He is ex-military, keeps quite a cache of firearms at home and has been a firearms consultant for a few movies. We aren’t close, but I learned last week that he shot himself in the hand when somebody with a jammed gun came over to the counter from the shooting range. The rules are not to do any work with a firearm at the counter, but to take it into a back room where that kind of work is done. Fortunately, he didn’t shoot anybody else in the process or do lasting damage to the hand. But this was one for the Darwin Awards. Last I heard, his employment status was still being decided.

  • Elwood

    ” I’d hope that reporting a horrorshow like this would at least remind some people not to be so f—ing careless, lest their own kid be next.”

    You can fix ignorant.

    But you can’t fix stupid.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    People run over their children in their driveways. Why doesn’t the media make a big deal about that?

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    The shot heard around the world. Thursday evening it was coming from Tokyo.
    Obviously the Kentucky trailer trash people aren’t to bright. If someone leaves their SUV’s motor running with an unrestrained 5 year old nearby & the kid moves the gearshift & the SUV runs over somebody, it’s just as negligent. Somebody is just as dead. But, the news does not travel around the world & no politicians cry about banning SUV’s.
    While we are on the subject Josh. Why don’t you use your press privilege, to find out how many firearms are stolen every year. Is this some fact the corrupt, liberal media, does not want the public to know?

  • MichaelB


    And I’ll bet that number is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of those injured/killed as a result of criminal activity by those who don’t comply with gun control laws in the first place.

    But it’s so much easier to go after the law abiding, isn’t it? The gun control movement just can’t resist using emotional appeals (with the help of “professional journalists” in the media) to generate public support/impose more “sensible” regulations that do not address the real problem/just make them feel good.

    Your nephew was careless/did not use good judgment in this case – so naturally everyone who has a gun must be exactly the same. And needs to be more heavily regulated and/or disarmed for “prevention” purposes. Will the criminals care? Obviously not.

  • MichaelB


    “Can’t allow anything at all”?

    Is that what you think about the amount of gun control laws in California? There are just “not enough” of them in a state with some of the strictest already? How much more is “required” before politicians stop introducing new ones?

    People should start “buying” (paying attention) when the Governor of New York State (a lefty if there ever was one) gets quoted saying gun confiscation “is an option” in response to the Sandy Hook school shootings. This should be a wake up call for a person covering this issue objectively. There’s nothing “sensible” or “reasonable” whatsoever about politicians trying to extort legally owned firearms from law abiding people having absolutely nothing to do with crime or violence.

  • MichaelB


    851 accidental deaths out of a population of about 300,000,000 with widespread private firearms ownership is practically nonexistent.

    It sounds your “main passion” is to assign human qualities to inanimate objects/rationalize bad behavior – “gun violence”. Violence is violence and it comes from people regardless of what weapons are used. It’s already against the law to engage in violent behavior.

    Gee, I wonder why so called “violence prevention” organizations/activists don’t seem too interested as to why people would choose to abuse or traffic firearms in the first place and how to make them stop doing it? They would rather complain about the “gun lobby”, “assault weapons”, magazines with more than 10 cartridges or a gun show operating at the Cow Palace instead.

  • Josh Richman

    @14 – Why does everything look like a big conspiracy to you, Bruce? It must be a very unhappy way of viewing the world.

    But since you asked: The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that about 1.4 million guns, or an annual average of 232,400, were stolen during burglaries and other property crimes in the six-year period from 2005 through 2010. On average, firearms were stolen in an annual average of about 4% of the 2.4 million burglaries occurring each year, in 2% of the 529,200 robberies, and in less than 1% of the 13.6 million other crimes involving theft from 2005 through 2010. From 2005 through 2010, 86% of burglaries and 75% of other property crimes involving a stolen firearm were reported to police.

  • JohnW

    @ 14 & 18

    I heard a caller on KGO radio today tell a story about a guy who bought a shotgun after his house was burglarized. Can’t remember where. Somewhere down South. A short time later, he was burglarized again. Guess what got stolen!

    Why would the “liberal media” want to conceal the volume of gun thefts anyway?

  • JohnW


    “It sounds [like] your main passion is to assign human qualities to inanimate objects…”

    It’s true. I have been known to have serious conversations with my walls. That’s with a “w!”

    As for gun trafficking, I don’t think there is a mystery as to why people would choose to be on either the selling or buying end of trafficking. I assume you will figure that out on your own without me or anybody else spelling it out.

    I have little doubt that getting serious about trafficking, combined with some “stop & frisk” would dry up the volume of guns on the streets in the cities and cut street killings by half or more — especially among innocent civilians who get caught in gang shooting crossfire every day. “Stop & frisk” is controversial among civil libertarian activists and inner city politicians, but it beats people getting killed. It’s not just a question of innocent and not-so-innocent people being killed. That’s bad enough. But it is also a matter of what the virtually every day gun shootings and hearing the popping of guns outside your house do to the fabric and soul of a neighborhood and community.

  • Bruce R. Peterson, Lafayette

    Thanks Josh. Now we assume there were 1,400,000 stolen firearms reported, from a 6 year period. Could you explain how all of the planned gun control measures will affect their use?
    You met me in person @ U.C. Josh. Did I seem like an unhappy person?

  • MichaelB


    The gun control movement isn’t interested in enforcement (trafficking or “stop & frisk”).

    What they want to get “serious” about is preventing law abiding people from legally purchasing/possessing guns by any means necessary. They had to be dragged kicking and screaming (after demanding a gun/magazine ban) to acknowledge that the diagnosis/treatment of the mentally ill was part of the problem involving mass shootings.

    I assume you will figure out on your own what a organization’s motives/priorities/goals are when its members/supporters complain about “too many guns”, argue people owning them legally really don’t “need” them to begin with or praise other governments that don’t allow owning them at all.

  • For Liberty

    See the link below regarding a re enactment of truth life events:


  • JohnW


    It was the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre who went on national TV after Columbine and said that we should have universal background checks, no exceptions. Was he part of “the gun control movement” then?

    Yes, there are indeed people who would like to prevent even law-abiding people from possessing firearms and would like to see the Supreme Court take notice of the “well regulated militia” language of the Second Amendment. The over-ruled D.C. handgun law was evidence of that. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have background checks and anti-trafficking tools to keep guns from people we all agree shouldn’t have them. Pat Toomey (R-PA), a Tea Party favorite, and Joe Manchin (D-WVA), a conservative Democrat, both have lifelong top ratings from the NRA. But they led the fight to pass a background check law.

    It’s also true that many people, me included, would like to limit access to military-style semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines. But that obviously isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do background checks, which do not even slightly infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens. Polls show that 80-90 % of people (Republicans and Democrats, red and blue states) and even a majority of rank & file NRA members support that. Are all of these people part of what you call “the gun control movement?”

    I say you’re totally mistaken about people being dragged kicking and screaming to acknowledge that mental illness was part of the problem involving mass shootings. That’s been a central part of the conversation dating all the way back to Columbine. I lived just a few miles from there at the time and can assure you that the conversation there was all about mental health. The “gun control” part of the conversation has been how to keep those people (mentally ill and violent felons) from possessing guns.

    I suspect that a majority of the wannabe minutemen who post on this blog are the gun equivalent of “all hat and no cattle” and don’t even own firearms.

  • MichaelB


    What was the immediate response to the Sandy Hook shootings from the gun control movement? A gun/magazine ban. What did states like New York and Connecticut do in response? Pass more gun control/bans. At best, lip service or only small provisions were paid to addressing mental health issues. It was political opportunism by the left wing.

    Speaking of Colombine, what kind of mental health issues were covered by the so called “Million Mom March” held shortly afterward? None. It was just a push for more gun control/bans with Rosie O’Donnell making offensive remarks about people owning guns needing to “go to prison”. Al Gore tried jumping in afterward and wanted more gun bans leading up to the 2000 election and lost states that would probably have voted for him.

    The “rank and file” citizenry may speak of mental health issues but that’s not what the gun control movement is putting emphasis on.

    Many people do not want “assault weapons” or high capacity magazines banned. When Democrats did this they lost control of Congress in the 1994 elections. Only a handful of left wing states have so called “assault weapons” bans. During the Senate hearings to renew this it was shown to be ineffective when enacted earlier. So why renew it at all? Just to make someone feel good? That’s not good enough.

    I have owned guns for more than 25 years and you are sadly mistaken to think that gun control advocates “want to cut a deal” on this issue. I would wager that the leadership of the Democratic Party doesn’t believe in the right to bear arms at all. They have lied to the public about their agenda on this issue so why believe them at all? Remember the health care bill – “we have to pass the bill to see what’s in it”? Well, what’s actually IN this background check bill? And what about comments made by the opponents? If you lived in a rural area you would have travel a long distance just to find someone authorized to process the transaction? Let’s be honest – criminals are not going to line up to submit to a background check. This is not a magic fix.

    Obama (whose Supreme Court nominees voted to keep the Washington DC gun bans intact) has shown little, if any, interest in prosecuting people failing background checks so that should give anyone a wake up call about his so called “concern” on this issue. It’s not genuine.

  • MichaelB


    The “liberal media” is not going to publicize anything unfavorable to gun control. Ever notice how “professional journalists” never seem ask too many (or any) questions regarding why more of it is needed, how it actually worked before when it was enacted or challenge any assertions made by gun control supporters?

    You would think at least one self respecting “professional journalist” would ask Dianne Feinstein why she thinks everyone else minding their own business/obeying the law should have their guns banned/restricted because of what Dan White did to George Moscone and Harvey Milk in 1978? Or if it’s really any of her business to go around lecturing people what kind of guns she thinks they “need” to own when she is supposed to be defending the 2nd Amendment as a United States Senator? I’m not holding my breath waiting.

    Theft of firearms illustrates that passing more legal regulations on law abiding people and expecting “crime prevention” from it is just a waste of time.

  • JohnW

    Michael B

    The NRA’s concerns about mental illness and violent video games are touching. Heartfelt, I’m sure. But has anybody got any bright ideas for addressing mental illness in a way that would prevent Columbine, Tucson, Aurora or Newtown? Or, for that matter, Milwaukee and Fort Hood, these being a lethal combination of fanaticism and mental instability. I think not.

    But universal background checking (formerly advocated by Wayne LaPierre) is something that is actionable, doesn’t infringe on the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens and can actually work. Done in conjunction with stepped up anti-trafficking, universal background checks can reduce the ability of gang members, other violent criminals and mentally insane people to get their hands on firearms.

    Yes, gang members and violent criminals will still find ways to steal guns. But that is the the most difficult way to get a gun and something we can take steps to prevent. Both the Aurora and Tucson shooters were able to legally purchase guns in stores, not to mention the thousands of rounds of ammo and protective gear the Aurora shooter bought online. That never should have happened in either case. They had been diagnosed and should have been in a data base and stopped by background check.

  • MichaelB


    Can actually work?

    Heartfelt, I’m sure. But current “steps to prevent” (background checks) are NOT being followed up on (prosecuted) by those claiming to be concerned about it. I’d say that gives the Obama Administration zero credibility on this issue (if they had any to begin with). Are you feeling “safer” knowing they just let someone “walk” after failing a current background check?

    And now they want to add more regulations? What’s the point if they won’t investigate/prosecute other than simply to prevent/restrict gun sales to satisfy the “fewer the guns, the better” platform of the left wing? Or worse by collecting data on what guns private citizens who are law abiding own/have? Can we look forward to a special tax/fee for those under Obamacare if they have a gun for “health” or “prevention” purposes?

    States are already required to report those mentally incapacitated to databases for background checks but have yet to do so. So do that. Organizations such as the ACLU will likely oppose efforts to commit/identify those who need treatment for mental illnesses. So what are you going to do about that?

    My “bright” ideas for reducing violence are to focus on individual behaviors (not inanimate objects) – reverse left wing policies/positions of increased government dependency, class envy, the entitlement mentality, equality of outcomes, blaming society and unsubstantiated/knee jerk claims of “racism”. It will take time but for every act of violence there’s an individual (who is responsible) participating in it vs. the it happens all by itself “gun violence” argument. If you get caught abusing firearms, you get punished severely for it.

    No more feel good nonsense about “assault weapons”, “too many guns” or the “gun lobby” being supposedly “responsible” for crime from progressive groups/politicians (who want to maintain political power, will not admit their policies do not work and encourage irresponsible behaviors).

  • JohnW


    “Are you feeling safer knowing they just let someone walk after failing a current background check?”

    No. I would hope that they do prosecute and that Congress has given them the resources to do that. I don’t know what the statistics are on prosecution followup. Perhaps you do. Obviously, they have to prioritize. I would concentrate on repeat offenders. However, even without prosecution, the background check serves a purpose when it prevents the person from completing a purchase at the gun store where the background check was initiated. Unfortunately, under current law, they can just skip to the internet or a gun show and buy a gun without a background check.

    I didn’t ask about “bright ideas” for reducing violence or about all your gripes about “left wing” policies. I rhetorically asked if anybody had any bright ideas for addressing mental illness to prevent Newtown-style gun violence. I think the answer to that is mostly “no,” which is why we can’t just wait for the holy grail of solving violence-prone mental illness instead of taking some perfectly reasonable steps that are doable and constitutional. However, I completely agree with you about putting teeth into the requirement for reporting information about violence-prone mentally ill people into the background check data base.

    Hooray. We actually seem to agree on two points. First, we agree about reporting to the background check data base. Second, since you rightly say that the reporting should be done, that obviously implies that you agree that background checks (at least the ones we already require) should exist and that there should be a data base to report into. Now, if I could just persuade you that exempting 40 percent of gun sales (internet and gun shows) completely undermines the effectiveness of doing background checks for the 60% of gun purchases that are covered.


  • MichaelB


    Hope that they would?

    Perhaps it’s just “obvious” the current administration has little, if any, interest at all in prosecuting those failing background checks regardless if Congress provides the resources to do it? Given Obama’s previous voting record on this issue (solidly pro gun control/against the 2nd Amendment) and the people he associates with (Eric Holder) this should not come as a surprise.

    The “40% of gun sales” number has been making the rounds on the news programs and it’s apparently based on information that’s about 20 years old. So is it valid at all? Whether it is or not it isn’t going to resolve criminals avoiding it in the first place. Relying on gun control to stop crime/violence in our nation is wishful thinking. If nothing is done to address why people choose to abuse firearms in the first place we’ll continue to have problems.

    So what is the plan from gun control advocates to address that/going forward other than just banning more guns/magazines/etc. for the law abiding not involved with crime/violence? And then accusing those of being “against the kids” or having “blood on their hands” if they disagree?