Youth Gun Violence: Who's Responsible?
Recently there has been what many have called a rash of gun violence perpetrated by children, in the schools across our nation. From Sandy Hook to Taft High School to South Side Elementary in Chicago children are getting access to and in a number of high profile cases are using these guns to hurt, maim and kill other children, as well as adults. According to the CDC’s statistics 5,816 children from the ages of 0-18 died from gun violence in the years between 2008-2010. However, in a report provided by The Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, from the years between 1994-2010, “the overall rate of serious violent crime against youth declined by 77%, from 61.9 victimizations per 1,000 youth ages 12 to 17 in 1994 to 14.0 per 1,000 in 2010.” Only recently with the large number of high profile youth, gun, violence stories reported by the national media has there been such an overwhelming outcry for something to be done in regards to guns and the access that children may have to them. It should also be noted that according to the same report: “from 1994 to 2010, more than half of violent crime against youth went unreported to police.”
How is it that children have access to guns? Although there are no hard statistics to back this up, one could only conclude that there is a large number of parental gun owners that may not have taken the proper precautions when storing there fire arms. According to Department of Safety & Homeland Security “On average every day, 14 American children under the age of 20 are killed and many more are wounded by guns.” Some parents may have a tendency to believe that there child would never find there gun, and if they did they would have a healthy fear of it, and not touch it. But this is generally not the case. Children are naturally inquisitive and on the web site provided by the Department of Safety &Homeland Security this point is emphasized in a banner heading. The site also provides this astonishing statistic that “Nearly two-thirds of firearm-owning parents with school-age children believe they keep their firearm safely away from their children. However, one study found that when a gun was in the home, 75 percent to 80 percent of first- and second-graders knew where it was kept.” How reliable the study is, and who wrote it was undisclosed.
Responsibility for the access that children have to guns must ultimately fall on the shoulders of both the parents and the children themselves. Not all parents are good at being supervisory or in some instances, at being parents at all. This is not something that any legislation will change. No law can turn a bad parent into a good one. However there may be some combination of legal avenues that can provide for a better gun owner. Psychological evaluations perhaps or maybe providing access to all hospital and mental health records as a requirement for gun ownership. In the case of children, their mental state must be taken into consideration by not only parents but school officials as well. Instances of bullying and shunning cannot simply be overlooked as “children being children.” Children are smarter today than in years past, and in most cases know when they are doing something wrong. Older children that are in leadership roles weather in social circles or in more formal settings can and should reiterate the difference between fake media images that are used to sell songs and products, and the real-life consequences that can result from playing with or intentionally using fire arms.
As it has been stated in many cultures through-out the world, “It takes a village to raise a child."