NRA News host Cam Edwards attacked laws to prevent children from accessing guns by positing that there should be no criminal penalty even when an admittedly careless adult allows a child access to a gun that the child then uses to kill themselves.
On the January 6 edition of NRA News program Cam & Company, Edwards attacked Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts for advocating for state laws that create a criminal penalty for adults that negligently allow children access to firearms. In an interview with USA Today, Watts cited the fact that only 15 states have child access prevention laws and contended, "This idea that a shooting that involves a toddler is accidental is asinine. If I was drinking and driving and hit my son, I would immediately go to jail. But if I left my firearm on the top of the refrigerator and he found it and shot himself, everyone says, what a horrible accident."
Edwards responded to Watts' USA Today interview by suggesting that if "you are careless with a firearm and one of your own children accidentally kills themself" that the "horror" of the incident alone would be sufficient punishment for the adult. But in arguing against laws that criminalize negligently allowing children to access guns, Edwards ignores that research has shown that these laws are associated with a reduction in gun deaths among children resulting from accidents and suicide.
Mocking Watts' comparison between a child access prevention law and a law that criminalizes killing someone while drunk driving, Edwards said, "We don't have a negligent storage law for alcohol," and, "We don't have a negligent storage law for automobiles, and so I'm not quite sure what she is talking about." But state criminal laws governing the storage of dangerous items are hardly uncommon. For example, Michigan has a number of criminal laws concerning the improper storage of hazardous materials with increased penalties for conduct that endangers the public.
Edwards also attempted to distract from an epidemic of fatal gun accidents involving young children by highlighting unintentional deaths caused in children by suffocation and other methods. Even so, according to the Centers for Disease Control unintentional shootings remain a top ten cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4 and 10-14. (Firearm homicides are the top violence-related cause of death for children 5-9 and a top five violence-related cause of death for children of all ages.)
While NRA lobbying has prevented the CDC from studying gun violence for years, in 1997 the CDC found that children in the United States were nine times more likely to die in gun accidents compared to other high-income nations.
The topic of accidental fatal shootings involving young children became national news in April 2013 following a tragedy where a 5-year-old boy unintentionally shot his 2-year-old sister with a rifle designed to be used by young children. Edwards responded to controversy over that shooting by attacking the media for covering the incident. In what he termed a "campaign of shame," Edwards claimed that the "mass media" sought to "hold themselves up as our betters" and "wanted to make a point that this is what happens in Bumpkinville" by reporting on the shooting.
According to a December 10, 2013 report from Mother Jones, at least 84 children aged 12 or younger have died in gun accidents since the December 14, 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. In just 9 instances a parent or guardian was convicted of a crime for allowing a child access to a gun.
From the January 6 edition of Cam & Company:
Image via Flickr user erix!, cropped.