Senseless deaths

Jul. 09, 2014 @ 10:05 PM

The indictment of a mother in the accidental death of her son this week was a grim reminder of a point we have made before, quite possibly with what may seem like tedious repetition.

But the message does bear repeating, because the tide seems to continue to run against common sense.

Loaded, unsecured guns have no business in the vicinity of children.

Even the most ardent defenders of a Second-Amendment right to keep and bear arms must share that view, and indeed many of those are vigorous and passionate advocates of gun safety.

But still we have incidents like the one that led to Amy Suzanne Pittman’s indictment on one count of voluntary manslaughter, three counts of felony child abuse, three counts of misdemeanor child abuse, three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one count of failure to store firearms to protect minors.

A tape of the 911 call the night Christian Pittman died from a gunshot wound includes this chilling sentence: “He shot himself, but he didn’t know it was loaded.”

Christian Pittman was 9. No child that age should have to know whether a gun is loaded. There is no way they can understand the gravity of picking up that weapon.

If this case were an anomaly, it would be tragic enough. But as other recent incidents here have underscored it is part of an ominous trend of youngsters with gunshot wounds – GSWs, in the opaque acronym of researchers.

“Hospitalizations and in-hospital deaths for children with GSWs are increasing,” according to a report to the American Academy of Pediatricians last October. “Currently, over 7,500 children are annually hospitalized for GSWs, including over 500 in-hospital deaths,” observed the authors of “United States Childhood Gun-Violence – Disturbing Trends.”

The report praised efforts to limit military-style semi-automatic assault weapons but said “handguns remain the leading injurious agent and may be a more efficacious target.” And it noted, perhaps unsurprisingly, “a significant relationship between household gun ownership and GSWs occurring in the home.”

It has been a grim summer around the country for young children – reports of a child dying after being left for a day in a scorching car, a baby shoved in a stroller off a New York subway and abandoned on the platform, a mother telling authorities she killed six of her newborns because she was addicted to drugs and didn’t want the responsibility of parenthood.

Perhaps these incidents are not especially uncommon – sometimes reports of one such tragedy fuels media appetite for reporting others that might have otherwise gone unnoticed outside a narrow area.

Or perhaps they suggest that our mental health system is neglected and inadequate to the task of dealing with the number of troubled people in our country.

Whatever the causes, it should be clear we have not done enough to help protect the most vulnerable among us from senseless and pointless death.