By Paul McQuillen
Twenty-two-month-old Cooper Harris died an excruciating death last month, left alone to die in his father’s car for hours. Cooper’s death was so tragic that for weeks it has captured the imagination and outrage of the media.
But where is the outrage over the loss of other innocent lives, those young lives lost to gun violence? On average, eight children in this country lose their lives to gun violence every day. Where is the media coverage then? Where is moral indignation that says, “Enough is enough” or “Not one more?” This country needs more than slogans.
Each year more than 32,000 Americans are killed by guns and more than 80,000 are injured at a cost of more than $100 billion. Every day in the United States, an average of 289 people are shot, 86 die and eight of those killed are children. Where is the outrage?
Gun violence is the second-leading cause of death of American youths and the leading cause of death of American black children. Youths ages 14 to 18 have the highest risk of being unintentionally shot by another child. Where is the anger?
The leading cause of death in youths ages 15 to 19 is suicide; guns are the most common method used. More than half of the youths who commit suicide with a gun found that gun in their home. Where is the outcry for proper storage of guns in homes with children?
Millions of children live in homes where guns are easily accessible. Unlocked guns in the home increase the risk of intentional and unintentional gun injuries, homicides and suicides. One-third of U.S. households with children under age 18 possess firearms. Two million children live in homes where guns are kept loaded or unlocked. One-fifth of gun owners with children under 18 store their guns loaded, more than a third store them unlocked and almost one in 10 store their guns loaded and unlocked. Where are the laws to protect our children?
More than half of unintentional firearm deaths occur while children are playing with a loaded gun; in half of those cases, the shooting takes place in the child’s home. More than 90 percent of the time, there is no adult present. Where are the parents? Why aren’t they held criminally culpable for the injuries and deaths caused by their negligence?
Currently there are no child access prevention (CAP) laws in New York. CAP laws will impose criminal liability on adults who negligently leave firearms accessible to children or otherwise allow them access to firearms without supervision.
Our organization is working to enact the Child Access Prevention or Safe Storage of Weapons Act (aka Nicholas’ Law). Nicholas was a 12-year-old child who died after being shot by his friend while playing with a loaded, unsecured gun. Join us at NYAGV.org.
Paul McQuillen is the Western New York coordinator of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.