Children and Guns

The number of children killed by guns each year could be cut significantly just by making safer guns and storing them properly. That's the conclusion of a recent study by the Washington-based Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.

The center analyzed 137 reports of gun violence and accidents involving children 18 and under that occurred during the 1997-98 school year. While neither a complete survey of all incidents nor a random sampling, the results are still telling.

The study found that in almost half the incidents, the gun was fired accidentally, most often because the shooter was playing with it. At least 53 percent could have been prevented if the gun had been "personalized" using existing technology so that only the designated owner could fire it. (One method uses a combination lock; another a ring worn by the owner.)

Unsafe storage of guns is a key problem: 53 percent of the shootings could have been prevented had the gun been properly stored - unloading the gun and locking it up separately from the ammunition. The center adds that 48 percent of the accidents could have been prevented by a trigger lock on the gun.

Dozens of child deaths by shooting could be prevented annually with the cooperation of gunmakers and without arguing over the meaning of the Second Amendment. The prospect of product-liability suits against gun companies, such as the one just launched by the City of New Orleans, is an added prod for change.

"Policies which require gun manufacturers to meet certain safety standards and require gun owners to store guns responsibly will go a long way toward saving young lives," the center says. Amen.

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