Thursday, January 8, 2009

Children Shooting Guns

Children and guns are a dangerous combination. On Tuesday an angry 4-year-old Ohio boy got a gun out of a closet and shot his baby sitter. Luckily the baby sitter will recover. What is especially disturbing about this story is that it wasn’t an accident. This preschooler knew both the location of the gun and how to use it.

Another gun tragedy involving a 4-year-old occurred last June when a South Carolina girl shot herself in the chest. This occurred when she took a gun out of her grandmother’s purse during a shopping trip at Sam’s Club.

In November an 8-year-old Arizona boy killed his father and another man using a .22-caliber rifle. His father had taught him how to shoot a gun to kill prairie dogs. Apparently the boy kept a tally of his spankings and had decided that the 1,000th spanking would be the last.

Clearly this 8-year-old boy learned to shoot a gun quite well. While parents can certainly teach their children to shoot guns at a young age, their brains are not sufficiently developed to handle decisions around appropriately using guns.

While most parents would agree that teaching preschoolers to shoot guns is too young, when can a child safely learn to shoot a gun? Recent research has shown that it takes about 25 years for a person’s brain to fully develop. The part of the brain that controls reasoning and impulses is the last to develop. We know teenagers and young adults can have difficulty controlling their emotions and impulsive behaviors. Unfortunately, upset teens with access to guns may lead to deadly results.

Many U.S. children have access to guns since about 35% of U.S. households have guns. Guns in the hands of children and young adults put all our children at risk. It’s time to figure out a better way to handle guns so that these types of tragedies stop.
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