Letter: The dangerous combination of children and guns

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The weapon was a 9 mm handgun legally purchased by the child’s mother. The 6-year-old found the gun on the top shelf in a bedroom closet and shot his teacher last month in Newport News, Va. Sounds shocking, but actually, since 1999, there have been 11 cases in which the person pulling the trigger at school was no older than 10. In most cases, the shooting was unintentional.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guns are now the No. 1 killer of children in the U.S., surpassing car accidents. The proliferation of gun sales within the last three years has led to greater accessibility and likelihood of injury or death by gun. An estimated 4.6 million children live in homes where guns are loaded and unlocked. In 2022, there were 301 unintentional shootings by children, resulting in 133 deaths and 180 injuries, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

Such tragedies have occurred in our area. Last September, a woman in Spartanburg, S.C., was fatally shot by her 3-year-old when the child gained access to an unsecured firearm. On Christmas Day 2021, a 3 1/2-year-old child in Edneyville accidentally shot herself and died when she found a handgun in her brother’s truck.

All of these deaths and injuries were preventable.

Teaching children not to touch guns is important, but the ultimate responsibility lies with adults. In the home, biometric safes accessible only by the adult owner are as easy to access as a nightstand drawer if needed in an emergency. Outside the home, guns for protection shouldn’t be left in glove boxes or purses where the gun can be accessed by children. As we learn from the Newport News shooting, hiding a gun on a closet shelf is not secure.

In Hendersonville, I lead a gun safety program called Be SMART for Kids, a nonpolitical, structured, consciousness-raising effort that teaches parents concrete steps they can take to keep their children safe from gun injury or death.

SMART stands for:
S — Secure your gun in a safe or on your body.
M — Model responsible behavior (talk to your kids).
A — Ask about the presence of guns in homes where your children go.
R — Recognize the role of guns in suicide.
T — Tell others to Be SMART.

Wise choices by adult gun owners will save lives.

— Kim Chao

Editor’s note: Chao notes that she’s the Be SMART coordinator in Hendersonville and offers presentations and educational materials to organizations and concerned citizens groups. She can be contacted at besmarthendo@gmail.com.  In Asheville, contact besmartasheville@gmail.com.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

5 thoughts on “Letter: The dangerous combination of children and guns

  1. Mike Rains

    Let me propose an even simpler, more effective way to stop this nonsense of young children and minors obtaining guns. Laws should be enacted that severely punish any adult that allows this to happen; as in manslaughter charges and serious jail time. That would most definitely include parents and family members of the child, if they were the cause.

    I find incredulous that the gun rights community can’t seem to link the personal right to own firearms (which I agree with) with the personal responsiblitiy needed for protecting innoncents from those same weapons. I guess they can’t be bothered with basic firearm controls that would prevent these tragedies.

  2. Guy Smith

    Sorry, no.

    For children (under 14) the CDC reports guns being the 10th major cause, tied with heart and paracitic diseases.

    You likely incorporated teenagers, which by proxy included all teen street gang members. The National Gang Center notes gang recruitment begins at 14.

    • Mike Rains

      I include all chldren, but especially the youngest ones who don’t even know what they are handling.
      Sounds like some have already prepared a response to oppose a proposal like mine by downplaying the number of deaths of young children by household firearm (#10 as you report) and introducing the issue of young gang members (who would obtain guns outside of the home.
      OK, so what about something in the middle? Say a child/minor (and up to 18) who obtains a gun owned by family member and uses it on themselves or others.
      What would responsible gun owners think about requiring that level of personal responsiblity?

      • T100

        So if Adam Lanza had merely beaten his mother so badly that she gave him the key to the gun safe instead of killing her and stealing it, would you send her to prison? What if Adam just threatened to kill her in bed with a knife Kohberger style if she didn’t cough up the key??

        • Mike Rains

          Well you know, if parents know they have to be responsible for their children’s action……then in the case of Adam Lanza’s mother, she wouldn’t have (shouldn’t) had a gun. And certainly not an assault weapon. Period.

          You see, it is amazing what requiring personal responsiblity (including the responsbility of a parent for their children’s actions) for gun ownership might do to reduce all these absolutely insane shootings by young people.

          You want unlimited gun ownership in America. Fine. But don’t come to me with claptrap about avoiding adult responsiblity for owning firearms.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.