Was this an Accident?
March 21, 1999, in Portland a tragic “accidental” shooting took place involving teenagers. A 16 year old girl was shot in the face at close range with a shotgun. She wasn’t killed but according to doctors she won’t be able to see, hear, or smell. She is looking at a minimum of two years of restoration surgery. At present she breathes through a ventilator in her neck and gets nutrients through a feeding tube.
To cut a long story short, about a dozen teenagers were having a party and one of them found a loaded shotgun under a couch. It discharged while he was playing with it and the charge hit the 16 year old girl in the face. Nearly everyone in the room ran instead of sticking around to be of help to the injured.
The anti-gun crusade picked up the cudgel immediately and started beating the drums about children and guns… and denying access to guns… and making it illegal to sell guns… etc.
A Terrible Insult
The lead trauma surgeon, Dr. Linda Erwin, addressed reporters at a news conference and said that the girl’s shooting showed that juveniles do not have the capacity to use guns safely… Excuse me, Dr. Erwin, but that sounds like announcing that if you catch a black person stealing that blacks do not have the capacity for honesty. Shame on you, Dr. Erwin, your comment was a terrible insult to responsible juveniles, and there are many.
No Gun Accidents
“Accident? Eliminate that word from your vocabulary,” said Erwin. “There are never, ever, ever, any accidental gunshot wounds. Every time someone gets shot, it’s a totally predictable consequence or the choices people made.”
Dr. Erwin also pushed for gun reforms that would hold adults accountable if they did not keep firearms locked away, unloaded. There is more merit to that comment. Perhaps it would be enough to say, “Let’s hold adults accountable.”
These people were not children
Before we get carried away with inflammatory rhetoric about children and guns let’s indulge in some honest scrutiny of the situation. First, let’s not refer to the participating characters as children. They are far beyond that label. Let’s call them teenagers… or young adults… or minors. Better yet, minors in possession (of alcohol) and perhaps the term “juvenile delinquency” might come to mind. The girl is sixteen and she is living with her boyfriend who is eighteen. The father of the girl is in prison and the mother has “lost” her apartment and moved from the school district. She describes her daughter as “strong willed” and “independent.” (I read that as meaning there is absolutely no parental control.) The mother “agrees” to let her daughter move in with her boyfriend if she keeps her grades up.
I’m looking for the Doctor’s “accountable adults.” There are teenagers playing house. There are teenagers drinking alcohol… out of a dozen teenagers we don’t hear a single word about adult supervision… Who is going to step up and say, “I am responsible for this disaster.”
The doctor was right in a limited sense… this was no accident; this disaster was entirely predictable, and for this group of teenagers there was no capacity to use guns safely. No one in this group followed rules; no one provided supervision. That’s the key and the solution. The thread of consequence that supported and sustained this “accident” sequence started with parents who were willing to look the other way in regard to rules and supervision.
It seems to me that the phrase “contributing to the delinquency of minors” should have great meaning for the parents of this group. And if they look into the mirror they may see the reason they aren’t sleeping very well of late.
Too much Hollywood?
I’m not through casting out demons yet. How many of you have watched westerns where the ‘hero” twirls his guns? Even good old Roy Rogers used to spin his revolvers before holstering his guns. We see hollywood cowboys reloading their lever action rifles with a flip of the wrist… and we see double barrel shotguns loaded and locked the same way… What do you want to bet that the boy that discharged that shotgun was “showing off” his hollywood style to the girls?