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Keeping Things in Perspective

You can see in the comments for all these articles on the Westfield gun accident, that people are in hysterics over the incident.  Before people get out the torches and pitchforks, in an attempt to tar and feather anyone involved with this machine gun shoot, let’s just look at some comparable facts:

  • Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury for children.  Children ages 14 and under account for one-third of all fall-related visits to hospital emergency rooms.
  • In 2003, nearly 285,600 children ages 14 and under were treated in the US for bicycle-related injuries. Nearly half (47 percent) of children ages 14 and under hospitalized for bicycle-related injuries are diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
  • Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages one to 14. The majority of drownings and near-drownings occur in residential swimming pools and in open water sites.  However, children can drown in as little as one inch of water.

So before jumping to the conclusion that the father and organizers here was insane, or deserves to be in jail, people should be asking themselves whether they let their eight year old kids swim in pools, whether they have stairs in the house, and whether their kids are allowed to ride a bicycle.  Statistically, these are all much more dangerous activities than shooting.

I do think there were lapses of judgement here, but not one that amounts to ruining anyone’s life over.  A child is dead, and that’s tragic, but the fact is that bicycles and pools kill many more times the number of children each year.  When a parent loses a kid to a bicycle accident or a drowning, they get sympathy, because people recognize it for what it is: an accident.  This was also an accident.  In the coming days, the focus should be on improving safety protocols for shooting events so that things like this do not happen again.  The focus should not be on ruining people’s lives who are already having to deal with sad consequences of this accident.

7 Responses to “Keeping Things in Perspective”

  1. B Smith says:

    It just goes to show how people tend to be guided by emotion rather than logic, especially when it comes to guns (or anything else deemed scary or dangerous by those who know little-to-nothing about the subject).
    I agree that there were some serious lapses of judgement here, but I also don’t think you can hang someone with guilt for ‘killing’ this kid…nobody intended this to happen, certainly, it was supposed to be a fun day for father and son. It wasn’t like anyone was intoxicated or otherwise reckless, it was just another tragic accident.
    My sympathy and prayers go out to this guy.

  2. Boyd says:

    If you’re saying we need no additional legislation as a result of this incident, I wholeheartedly agree.

    If you’re saying law enforcement shouldn’t look into the possibility of negligence (on the part of the father, or anyone else) because falls, bicycles and water kill lots of kids every year, I strongly disagree.

    If you’re saying that lapses in judgment that add up to negligence should be ignored, I strongly disagree.

    We don’t know anywhere close to all the facts here, and I think it’s just as wrong to say “leave them alone” as it is to call for their heads, or certainly for new legislation. Honestly, I believe that not investigating the potential negligence would only make it more likely that legislation would be introduced, and in Massachusetts, it will likely pass.

  3. Peter Hamm says:

    It was against existing Massachusetts law.

  4. Sebastian says:

    Hey Peter… I thought you had given up commenting on blogs. Either way, I’m not sure you’re correct about Massachusetts Law. It’s perfectly legal to possess machine guns under MA law if you comply with the requirements of the National Firearms Act, and have a Class A license.

  5. Peter Hamm says:

    Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 140, subsection 130 and provides that “whoever sells or furnishes any alien or any person under eighteen years of age a… machine gun or ammunition… shall be punished by a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $10,000, or by imprisonment in a state prison for not more than ten years or by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than two and one-half years, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”

  6. Sebastian says:

    That’s interesting. Here’s the section in question. There are listed exceptions:

    Nothing in this section or section one hundred and thirty-one E shall be construed to prohibit a parent or guardian from allowing his child or ward, who has not attained age fifteen, the supervised use of a rifle or shotgun or ammunition therefor, according to the provisions of section one hundred and twenty-nine C, nor from furnishing such child or ward, who has attained age fifteen, with a rifle or shotgun that is not a large capacity weapon or ammunition; provided, however, that said child or ward, being fifteen years of age or older, has been issued a valid firearm identification card or alien permit to possess a rifle or shotgun which is in his possession. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit an instructor from furnishing rifles or shotguns or ammunition therefor to pupils; provided, however, that said instructor has the consent of a parent or guardian of a pupil under the age of eighteen years.

    The interesting thing is that they do provide an exception for supervised use of a shotgun or rifle, but not for a machine gun. You might be right Peter. I am not an expert on Massachusetts law, but you might be right.

  7. Sebastian says:

    Looking in definitions, “furnishing a firearm” is not defined. I suspect this hinges on how the courts interpret that term. It is in a section regulating sales, but the exceptions listed would hint that the legislature meant this to cover temporary possession as with instruction.

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