The latest gun tragedy story making the rounds hits a little close to home, since it happened in the city where I was born:
It’s tragic enough when a three-year-old dies. It’s even worse when you have a personal connection, and worse still when it was done with a gun designed to look cute. That thing looks like a toy, like a girls’ version of a water gun.
Some people will point to bad parenting on this one, and there’s definitely an element of this. I mean, the gun was left in an area where the kid could get at it and it was obviously already loaded. Others will point to the evil of guns, how this is one more needless death. It’s not that simple. The area of the city where this family lived isn’t the best part of town and it’s not completely unreasonable to me that a mother with a small child alone at home at night would feel more comfortable having a gun. (I say the mother because the gun is obviously marketed toward women.) I still think the risk-to-harm ratio of owning a gun for self-protection is underrated, and these parents are unfortunately getting a very harsh lesson that a gun can hurt your family as well as keep them safe, but I will admit that in this situation it’s not all that unreasonable to want to have a gun for self-protection. I don’t think I would have owned one, but I can understand them owning one better than I can a lot of situations.
That said… when you make a gun designed to look cute rather than deadly, I do think you’re playing with fire here. Both because kids might think it’s a toy and because it makes it that much harder for parents to think nothing could possibly go wrong with this gun.
Mainly this leaves me feeling very, very sad. Prosecuting the parents won’t help. Turning the gun manufacturers into monsters for producing the Hello Kitty version of a deadly weapon won’t help. This is life, which means it’s messy, and complicated, but mostly really very sad.
On a related note, some people better versed in guns than me have pointed out it really is reasonable to need 150 bullets – that that’s about the right amount for a day at the range, and given that people own different kinds of weapons they need different kinds of ammunition. I was upset when I wrote that post not just because of the sheer quantity of ammunition but the apocalyptic tones I was seeing in people’s reaction to the bullet shortage. I’d heard a number of people, both strangers online and people I know personally, talk about how taking away the bullets meant the government could do whatever they liked. And this struck me as both irrational (to think that being armed meant you’d be safe) and naive (to think there weren’t large numbers of Americans, particularly poor people and people of color, who weren’t already being pushed around by the government.) I was frustrated as much by the reaction as the facts of the situation, and because I didn’t know guns as well as I’d like I didn’t see those facts that clearly.
But my rhetoric wasn’t helping, whatever my reasons. I try very hard to be reasonable even in situations I find distressing, and I didn’t really live up this time. So I wanted to apologize and say I’ll try to do better in the future to be less incendiary and more careful about the facts of the situation. Thanks for setting me straight on the facts. While I still find certain attitudes distressing and think they can contribute to dangerous undervaluing of guns’ dangers, a lot of the people who commented on that post (here, at LJ, and on FB) reminded me that those attitudes are a minority.