Three tragic shootings of children should be wake-up call

Gun-owners need to grasp the deadly consequences of their lapses in judgment.

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The inadvertent shooting of three children in Washington state in less than a month is horrifying and tragic.

And some are calling for tougher state firearms laws.

Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, said the shootings show a need for criminal penalties for adults who leave loaded firearms in locations accessible to children under the age of 12. Kline is considering legislation in the special session of the Legislature to clarify that the unsafe storage of firearms around children constitutes reckless endangerment.

While we agree steps should be taken in an effort to keep guns out of the hands of young children, we aren't convinced a knee-jerk reaction is going to do much - if anything - to address the problems.

In the most recent shooting, a 3-year-old boy fatally shot himself in the head early Wednesday morning with a handgun left under the front seat in a car being filled up with gasoline by the boyfriend of the boy's mother.

A week ago the 7-year-old daughter of a Marysville police officer died after she was shot by her younger brother while they were alone in the family car in Stanwood. The officer left a handgun in the vehicle and was standing outside when the shooting occurred.

The first shooting occurred on Feb. 22 when an 8-year-old girl was critically wounded at an East Bremerton elementary school after a gun in a classmate's backpack inadvertently discharged. A 9-year-old boy told police he had taken the gun from the home of his mother and her boyfriend.

In all three of these incidents, as tragic as they are, the root of the problem was clearly a lapse in judgment on the part of adults. Sending them to prison for their horrific blunders would be less of a punishment than the grief and guilt the adults feel. Their lives will be tortured forever.

It certainly is possible new or stricter laws could prevent these types of tragedies in the future. The Legislature would be wise to review with prudence over the next year the current laws in relation to the three incidents.

Then again, perhaps a strong public awareness campaign highlighting these real-life tragedies could do far more good in preventing gun deaths and injuries. Current efforts to prevent drunken driving take this approach and they appear to be extremely effective.

Dave Workman, senior editor at Bellevue-based Gun Week Magazine and spokesman for the Second Amendment Foundation, said "fundamental firearms safety mistakes" were made in the Tacoma and Stanwood shootings.

Any effort in making changes to gun laws will be met with resistance by the gun lobby out of fear they are a threat to the Second Amendment right to bear arms. A divisive debate is not needed.

What is needed is for gun owners to grasp the deadly consequences of their lapses in judgment - particularly when they involved children. These tragic shootings should be a wake-up call.

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