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.