Last week’s tragic death of a 2-year-old girl by her 5-year-old brother in neighboring Cumberland County has brought the nation’s gun debate right to our back door.
News coverage of the incident exemplifies just how unfamiliar some of the world is to a culture where guns are common and violent crime is not.
An Associated Press article that traveled the globe led with, “In southern Kentucky, where children get their first guns even before they start first grade…”
News stories elaborated on the fact that the gun was a gift for the 5-year-old boy and an ABC report said “he had used it before, which is common in Kentucky.”
The reports also claim the family kept the gun in a corner of the house.
The maker of the gun, Keystone Sporting Arms, has come under attack for manufacturing the brightly colored “My First Rifle.” One article suggests the gun industry is following the lead of the tobacco industry in marketing to young people to build a market because gun ownership is declining.
I didn’t grow up with guns in my home but I knew when I became engaged to a hunter/military man that I needed to get more comfortable around firearms. So, while in college I took a marksmanship course. As it turned out, I loved it.
We have had weapons in our home since we married and our daughter was raised to know basic gun rules. Thanks to his military background, my husband was rather blunt with rule number one: don’t point a gun at something (or someone) you aren’t prepared to shoot. I believe his honesty about weapons taught our daughter some lifelong rules that I’m sure are helpful since she too married a hunter and gun owner.
My daughter and her husband are now raising my granddaughter to respect guns. My granddaughter will go hunting with our son-in-law when he decides she is ready. I know that he has been taught well and he will instill in her the proper knowledge and caution required to grow up around guns.
My daughter says when he comes home from hunting her husband checks his weapon outdoors to make sure it is empty. When he enters the house, he checks it once again before putting it safely away in a secure gun case.
I won’t deny that I have some apprehension around guns or thinking about guns being in the house with my daughter and granddaughter. I also believe a dose of apprehension is a good thing. People die when they take the risk of handling a gun too lightly.
I wish members of the news media who ventured into Cumberland County last week to cover the tragedy would have stayed around long enough to get the rest of the story. The story about the hundreds of families who have taught their children respect for firearms and gun safety. The story of families that secure their guns in safes and gun cases and take extra measures to make sure they cannot be reached by innocent little hands. A story about a part of America where the good people have the guns, and where the bad people carefully tread.
I wish they would have learned more about what is “common in Kentucky” when it comes to gun ownership. What happened in Cumberland County is not common and neither are the decisions that allowed the terrible tragedy to happen.
We realize, however, that one loss is one too many. With that said, it’s a good time for all of us who are around guns to make sure we are following gun safety rules and to make sure a tragedy like this never happens again. There are some mistakes that can’t be fixed. With guns, it only takes one mistake to change lives forever.