Parents are supposed to keep their children out of harm's way. Some parents purchase handguns to protect their children, but irresponsible gun safety is solely to blame for two deaths and one near-death of local children in the past three weeks. This isn't rubbing salt in a wound. This is returning responsibility to where it belongs: with parents.
Last week a cop leaves a loaded handgun in his van's unlocked glove box, then leaves his kids unattended in the van. A 7-year-old is shot in the torso by a younger sibling and dies.
Two weeks ago two felons leave four guns loaded and unsecured at home during a visit by two children, 7 and 9. One takes a gun to school and hits the other, who barely survives after five surgeries. The 9-year-old is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm, bringing a weapon to school, and reckless endangerment.
Washington has no law that provides for criminal penalties for adults who allow children to obtain guns, but that hasn't stopped prosecutors from taking unprecedented measures against negligent parents.
Prosecutors are charging the two felons with third-degree assault, unprecedented for negligence in a child shooting. They could face five years in prison each. "It's not been done before, that we know," said the prosecutor, "but we're confident in our research." The boy's sentence has been reduced to one year of probation for agreeing to testify against his mother and her boyfriend. Meanwhile the 3-year-old's mother's boyfriend will likely be charged as well, and there's no telling what will happen to the police officer.
People are calling for stricter gun laws in response to the shootings, and yet just last week gun-rights advocates were happily celebrating after the state supreme court overruled a city parks gun ban. Mercer Island residents and Weekly readers are expressing outrage over police blaming parents for crimes committed by children, and yet we dare give firearm-negligent parents the pass?
As Nicole Brodeur asserts in this morning's Times,
Each (parent) left a gun unlocked in a place where a child could reach it, fire it -- and kill or nearly kill with it... all of these people who felt the need to have or carry a firearm let their guard down -- and the safety off.
Brodeur calls for stricter gun laws, but laws already cover the shootings' causes: felons not allowed to own handguns, an irresponsible boyfriend with a concealed weapons permit, and a careless police officer with three years of patrol duty. We don't need more restrictions against our heavily defended gun rights. We need to enforce the laws we already have, which, if followed, would have prevented these three tragedies.