A 3-year-old wanders into a neighbor’s apartment, finds a loaded, unsecured gun — and somehow shoots and kills his 18-month-old sibling.
The mind quails at the scene, the inconsolable wail of horror.
What a terrible burden for the neighbor, for the child who lived.
What a dreadful loss — a life extinguished and a family shattered.
What can one do in the face of such grief and agony?
When we posted the story on our Facebook page, it immediately ignited a debate about gun control — a subject so bitter that everyone hurls themselves into the foxhole of argument the moment the starburst shell lights up that tortured battlefield.
But let us focus on one small part of that debate: How shall we protect our children?
The federal Centers for Disease Control reports that unintentional gunshot wounds remain the eighth-leading cause of accidental death in the United States — but the third-leading cause of accidental death among those younger than 19. Teenage boys account for 80 percent of those deaths.
The risk a child will die from a gunshot wound is twice as high in rural areas as in urban areas, the CDC reports.
Moreover, for every child killed with a gun — another 105 are wounded.
Those accidental firearm deaths usually happen at home — and almost always involve a gun that either lacks a trigger lock or isn’t locked up.
Studies suggest gun makers could easily produce guns almost impossible for young children to fire accidentally. In fact, the technology exists to make guns that will only fire for the person who owns it. One might even require the sale of trigger locks with all firearm purchases.
Of course, any such suggestion will enrage the vociferous gun lobby. Within minutes, we’ll be trapped in the same swirling, passionate, immobilizing debate that seems to rise from every such tragedy like swirls of bitter smoke.
But here’s how you can sidestep that debate — and infuse this senseless death with some meaning.
If you own a gun and don’t have a trigger lock — go get one today.
Then store the ammunition separately — and lock up the gun.
Perhaps like that now grief-stricken elderly neighbor you don’t have children. You think that means you need not take such precautions. As we learned on Wednesday, that’s a lethal assumption.
Perhaps you fear the intruder in the night as you fumble in the dark with the trigger lock. But the danger to any child that comes into your home remains far greater than the danger you face from a stranger in the dark. Who among us would risk the life of a child to make ourselves a little safer?
So please, do not linger to see how this circular, never-ending debate will play out.
If you have a gun, secure it today.
Do not be the cause of the next, unspeakable tragedy.