A 3-Year-Old Shot and Killed Himself, and for Once the Cops Did the Right Thing

Crime
A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Aug. 19 2013 2:11 PM

A 3-Year-Old Shot and Killed Himself, and for Once the Cops Did the Right Thing

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"Lock it up and put it out of reach of anyone that has no business being around a gun."

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

Several readers have written in to share the story of Damon Holbrook, a 3-year-old Michigan boy who, on Sunday, died after unintentionally shooting himself in the head with a loaded handgun he found in a bedroom closet. The handgun belonged to a family friend who had been staying with the Holbrooks; the friend was arrested, and will be arraigned today. According to the Monroe News, he may be charged with involuntary manslaughter.

The speed with which the family friend was arrested is worth noting and applauding as an example of how authorities ought to handle cases like these. Usually, the investigating officers first deem the shooting a tragic “accident,” and then charges are only brought later, if at all. But the Dundee, Mich., police wasted no time arresting the family friend. And that’s how it ought to be done.

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It’s very tempting for the police to characterize these sorts of incidents as no-fault accidents. After all, what purpose does it really serve to compound a family’s trauma by packing the relevant adults off to jail? Well, the purpose, of course, is to deter other adult gun owners from making the same mistakes, and to make clear that the right to bear arms carries with it the requirement to bear them responsibly. Damon Holbrook did not die out of happenstance, or some unforeseeable act of God. He died because a careless adult abdicated responsibility, and left his handgun loaded, accessible, and unsecured in a house where an inquisitive 3-year-old was running around. That’s no accident. It’s criminal negligence.

Earlier today, according to the Monroe News, Damon Holbrook’s father posted a message to his Facebook page that ought to be read and remembered by anyone who owns guns with children in the house. Here’s an excerpt:

“I have nothing wrong with guns ... I will still support the Second Amendment,” he wrote. “All I ask is that everyone please, please safety first ... lock it up and put it out of reach of anyone that has no business being around a gun especially kids. Gun safety people! My boy would still be here if it was put away like it should have been.”

But it wasn’t. And the guy who didn’t put it away should have to answer for his failure to do so.

Crime is Slate’s crime blog. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @slatecrime.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.

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