Criminal Negligence

Criminal Negligence


There are certain heartbreaking events for which there is no excuse. If a tragedy could have been prevented simply by the use of common sense and being a responsible adult happens anyway, that’s stupidity. The story out of Elmo, Missouri today is no less than a case of criminal negligence.

Around 9 a.m. Monday morning the Sheriff’s office received a frantic call from a woman who said that her nine-month old baby had been shot by a paint gun. When the sheriff arrived at the rural home, he discovered a far more disturbing scene. The baby was in a crib and was obviously near death; there was a hole in his head from a gunshot wound. The child was rushed to a hospital and died three hours later.

An investigation quickly determined that the baby’s five-year-old brother had found a loaded .22 magnum revolver lying on the bed. While he was handling the weapon, it discharged, killing his baby brother.

Sheriff White reported that it was a tragic accident, and that no foul play was involved. He said that the small community is very supportive of gun ownership because of the isolated locations of many homes.

There was absolutely no reason why this accident should have happened. Why was the gun loaded and in a location accessible to a minor child? Is one of the parents guilty of criminal negligence?

The argument regarding gun control will likely go on well past my lifetime. It doesn’t matter which side of the issue you are on, there are several realties which all intelligent people can agree to.

With gun ownership comes great responsibility. No individual should be allowed to purchase a lethal weapon without receiving safety training and a background check. This is common sense. Without proper care and handling criminal negligence becomes a distinct possibility.

Every year children who are injured or killed by gunshot wound reach an unforgivable number of nearly 10,000. Statistics of children being killed by other children are sketchy; they do not appear on a list of accidental deaths. In the eight states which do keep records 259 deaths of children under the age of 15 by gunshot were reported.

What would you think the gun lobby, the NRA and Wayne LaPierre, have to say about these tragedies? Don’t expect it to have any sympathy or empathy for the families whose lives have been forever altered. Not only does it reject any background checks for gun sales, it opposes ‘safe gun storage,’ claiming that it is unnecessary. It claims that the incidents such as the one in Missouri are rare. Sadly, there are no nationwide statistics to debunk the lobby’s assumptions.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation issued ten tips to help eliminate gun-related accidents in the home.

Keep the muzzle of the gun pointed away from any other person in the room at all times.

Never place a finger on the trigger until you intend to discharge the weapon.

Insure that the weapon is not loaded when removing or placing it in safe storage. It should be unloaded at any time it is not in use.

Before operating a firearm learn how it operates; read the manual completely; and, if necessary, consult a professional at a gun range or gun shop.

Firearms should be stored in a locked area in your home; 100 percent inaccessible to children.

The ammunition for all weapons should be stored separately from the firarms.

Purchase and use a trigger lock, preventing discharge of the weapon.

Discuss gun safety procedures with all family members.

All firearms should be cleaned and unloaded immediately after returning from a hunting trip or the firing range.

Educate all young people in the house about the danger of firearms, and make them pledge that they will not handle any unattended weapon they may find in their own home or anyone else’s.

Of course the NRA will claim that none of this is necessary. Maybe they should ask a family in Elmo Missouri how they feel.

Commentary by James Turnage



New York Times

Project Child

Photo courtesy of Paul Walsh

Flickr License


  1. Your comments about the NRA doesn’t care are not appreciated ! I am a firearms coach and have been a firearms safety instructor for many years, all taught by the US NRA. The availability of safety classes to all persons who are legally eligible to own firearms are widely available from other NRA trained instructors as myself. The NRA even has an Eddie Eagle safety program for family members and available to schools free of charge to educate non-shooting family members, . The first thing taught is Don’t Touch. I’m very sorry for the loss of this child, it makes me more hopeful that others in the community will now back and promote such programs.