194 Children Have Been Shot and Killed in America in 2013. This Has to Stop.

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Dec. 10 2013 12:02 PM

194 Children Have Been Shot and Killed in America in 2013. This Has to Stop.

158759485
A file photo of a handgun.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

In a piece that went up today on Mother Jones’ website, Mark Follman writes that at least 194 children aged 12 and under have been shot and killed this year in America. Follman’s piece is just one part of a larger package that also includes a downloadable spreadsheet of the death data, and an affecting interactive photo gallery that goes deeper into each individual child shooting death this year. Some of these were unintentional shootings. Others were suicides, or murder-suicides. None of them had to happen.

Child shooting deaths are a huge problem, and a specifically American problem at that. Follman cites a Children’s Defense Fund study that found that America’s rate of child shooting deaths is four times higher than Canada’s and 65 times higher than the United Kingdom’s. And he notes that, in cases of unintentional child shooting deaths, the relevant gun-owning adults are almost never held responsible:

While charges may be pending in some of the 84 accidental cases, we found only 9 in which a parent or adult guardian has been held criminally liable. And in 72 cases in which a child or teen pulled the trigger, only four adults have been convicted.
Advertisement

This is maddening, but not surprising. As I’ve said over and over again, America’s child access prevention laws—which aim to reduce underage gun incidents by penalizing adults who allow children to access those guns—are inconsistently written and rarely enforced. (According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 27 states and the District of Columbia have passed child access prevention laws in one form or another.) All around the country, when a child unintentionally shoots and kills himself or another child with a parent’s gun, prosecutors are reluctant to press charges against the parent and thus add to the family’s misery.

This is misplaced compassion, and it renders these laws meaningless. By refusing to apply existing child access prevention laws, authorities waste the opportunity to promote responsible gun ownership, and thus theoretically reduce the number of deaths fostered by irresponsible firearms owners. Many of the 194 deaths catalogued by Mother Jones are products of this reluctance. How many more children will die before we see a change?

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.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.