Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Guns and Roses

The newspapers last week brought a piece of news that I found particularly distressing. The two players in the tragedy reported were a brother-sister duo, five and two years old respectively, the same ages as my La Niña and El Niño. For some reason, that frightened me even more.

A five-year-old boy from Kentucky, USA, accidentally shot and killed his two-year-old sister, identified as Caroline Sparks, with a .22 calibre Crickett rifle that he had received as a gift on his birthday. The little girl was immediately rushed to hospital and doctors spent an anxious hour trying to revive her, but their efforts were unsuccessful. The little one was already beyond the might of modern medical science.

At the time of the tragedy, the children had been playing together in a room in which the gun, loaded with a single shell, was stowed. It was an accident waiting to happen.

The children's mother had been busy cleaning the house at that time. She had just stepped out of the house and onto the porch when she heard the gun go off. It had been no more than three minutes. The longest three minutes of her life that the unfortunate mother will very probably regret as long as she breathes.

The coroner who investigated the accident revealed that the boy was familiar with the intricacies of gun use and had often accompanied his father on shooting expeditions on their property. He added that it was a tragic situation.

This is not the first accident of its kind. Earlier, a six-year-old boy in the US died after his four-year-old playmate shot him by mistake during a playing session gone wrong. In another instance, a four-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed a 48-year-old woman.

My first thought on reading the news was about the enormity of the tragedy. No matter that only one child had died, it was still a tragedy. A travesty of innocence.

I'm not really informed about the gun control debate that is on in the US. I don't understand why guns are necessary, why not letting people pack them is a violation of their rights and why the Constitution ought to sanction something as heinous as the possession of arms. All that I understand is that, as a mother, I am deeply saddened by the senseless death of two-year-old Caroline, as also by the painful, sudden yet irrevocable manner in which her older brother's life has been, for all practical purposes, cut short, arrested mid-development, forever. I wonder how many years of guilt and therapy lie in wait for him.

There are some things that I can’t even begin to understand. Why would anyone gift a child a gun? Why would anyone think a gun is an ideal toy for a five-year-old? Why would anyone keep a loaded gun within reach of not just one but two children?

The Crickett rifle responsible for this tragedy was marketed by a Pennsylvania-based company called Keystone Sporting Arms, a company well known for selling guns specifically for children. The company’s campaign, “My first rifle,” aims to make rifles and guns seem attractive to children. The colours in which these death-machines are available, blue and green, and pink for girls, entice kids and fool grownup fools into thinking of it as a cute, little educational toy that couldn’t possibly do any real harm.

In fact, the company’s website used to reiterate that it aimed "to instill gun safety in the minds of youth shooters."

The site has been taken down since in response to the furore raised in the wake of the tragedy. However, the pictures hosted on the Kid’s Corner section of the website are available for viewing on MotherJones.

The website and the opinion of the gun lobby seem to suggest that the way to keep a young child safe is by teaching him/her to properly load and unload a gun and shoot. In my opinion, the way to keep a young child safe is by keeping the gun far away and locked so children cannot get at it.

I don't understand why there has to be a romance created around a first rifle, the way there is around a first pen, watch or car, a sort of initiation into adulthood.

David Mann, the uncle of the children, said of the tragedy, "It's something that you can't prepare for," even as the little girl’s grandmother said, “It was her time to go.” A Kentucky State Police Trooper said, "It's just one of those nightmares, a quick thing that happens when you turn your back."

Responses such as these seem to suggest that the child’s death was inevitable, when the truth is that it could so easily have been prevented just by keeping the offending weapon out of reach on that fateful day, and every day.

Who is at fault here?

The company for peddling these vicious candy-flossed death traps to children? For creating a market for guns owned by children and encouraging the belief that the possession of a gun invests the owner with bravado and machismo? For snatching innocents from their cradles and hurtling them towards their graves?

Or the parents for not keeping them unloaded and hidden, for underestimating the danger?

Or the children themselves for believing the spiel?

Children today live far more imperiled lives than we did when we were their age. That is a sad fact of our times. Shouldn’t we, as responsible parents and grownups, mitigate the danger to their lives by keeping firearms away from them?

Isn’t it ironic that the same people who go to great lengths to childproof their homes think nothing of bringing a live, loaded weapon into their children’s lives?



  1. God! What a tragedy! I agree with you completely... who gifts a gun to a child and keep them within their reach!?
    And there is a market for such products and the family giving such statements.... it is more than ridiculous.
    The lil boy is scarred for life...:|

  2. I know, Shilpa, I feel so bad for that poor boy. What thoughts must be going on in his mind? My daughter is five, and there are so many things she can't handle on her own. And to think this boy was trusted with a live, loaded gun. I am shocked.

  3. Oh what a tragedy, how will that family ever recover. The whole industry that tends to make rifles and guns attractive is at fault, but they are not the only ones at fault. Wonder which adult was senseless enough to gift a gun to the poor child.

  4. Bhavya, I have heard that the gun manufacturers' lobby is not very different from the tobacco lobby in the US. In both cases, the industries are desperate to target younger people in order to be assured of customers from a very young age.

  5. Whoa! This is one scary post, Cynthia. Moreso because it involves kids. I can't think of a way we can train a child to hold a gun "responsibly". At that age a child does not even understand the implications of his actions!!!
    I grieve for the parted and more so for the child involved who would live a life of guilt and grief and loss and as you said innumerable therapy sessions.
    I'm appalled by the irresponsibility displayed by the parents, relatives and the society at large.

  6. So true, Kajal. The poor little girl is dead, and may her soul rest in peace, but for her brother, it is a lifetime of torment and guilt.
    Society at large is slow at learning lessons. Some people will continue to think that a rifle is a fine gift to give a little child to make a man out of him.

  7. How can it be her time to go :( The very statement makes me seethe with anger and making attractive rifles for kids !?!? GOSH this makes the belief more strong that man is all set to demolish the man :-| hope some reform comes in those places. Such news give jitters

  8. Afshan, For the manufacturers of guns, children are just consumers that they are trying to catch at a very young age. They don't care if lives are lost.

  9. It's really sad that small kids are exposed to using dangerous weapons like Guns. As Parents one should be aware that deadly weapons as guns should be kept locked and out of their reach. Infact any sharp objects like knives etc should be kept away. Surprised to hear the comments from the Police officials and the grandmother

  10. What a terrible tragedy, Cynthia. Sadly, the NRA and their 'fans' in the US don't seem to get even after gun violence escalates.

  11. Tragic and unfortunate.Tragedy which could have been averted easily..

  12. The Constitutional protection to bear arms arises from the need of citizens to protect and defend themselves from tyrannical government. In the original context it was the United States versus Great Britain.

  13. "Why would anyone gift a child a gun?" Because they're crazy! Because their priorities are completely warped!
    I have no words on how imbecile some people are!!

  14. Diana, as parents we should never forget that even when children seem mature beyond their age, they are still little children.

  15. Yes, Corinne, the gun debate continues. I don't know how many more lives will be lost before a positive change comes about.

  16. Yes, Sharmila, that's the sad part. THat the tragedy could so easily have been averted, and now two innocents pay the price of that lapse.

  17. Denise, I was not aware of the reason why the Constitution sanctions the right to bear arms. Thank you for the information. However, I wish the parents had taken care to keep the weapon out of sight and locked.

  18. Roshni, I guess as parents we are able to feel the loss that the parents of these two innocents will suffer for the rest of their lives. But regret cannot bring back their children.

  19. What a sad and tragic event. Agree with you - why would you give a child a gun as a gift? I'm absolutely horrified.

  20. What a tragic! How can a person shoot somebody accidentally if he knows everything about guns. The safety rules for carrying and using firearms are everywhere on the Internet and all firearms safety training schools teach those lessons to their students. Moreover, it is mandatory to get the training and license in order to carry the gun to avoid such accidents.


  21. Jacky, you have to remember that this kid was only 5 years old. No matter how well trained he was in handling guns, he is still too young and incapable of handling a weapon.



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