Opinion

Texans still have fingers on trigger, despite tragedies

Recent headlines regarding accidental shootings should be all the warning we need to try to curb the number and use of guns in this country.

Last month no one could have missed a version of this one from The New York Times: “Woman at Walmart Is Accidentally Shot Dead by 2-year-old Son.”

This was a mother shopping, with the child in the shopping cart and three young female relatives tagging along. She had a gun in a purse reportedly designed to keep a weapon safe, but the toddler found it.

This month, there was this one from Missouri, “5-year-old shoots, kills infant brother.” And from Florida, “Deputies: Child fatally shoots self in East Lake.”

In the Florida case, The Tampa Tribune reported that a 2-year-old’s father put him in a family vehicle where the dad “had placed a .380 caliber handgun in the glove box.”

While the father was “distracted,” according to police, the boy picked up the gun and …

Over the past couple of years, there have been numerous headlines touting stories that would appear to be pathetic, unbelievable fiction if you didn’t know them to be real news items. Such as:

▪  “Girl, 9, Accidentally Kills Shooting Instructor While Firing an Uzi”

▪  “Wisconsin Boy, 3, Shoots Self In Head With Mom’s Gun”

▪  “BART police mourn officer killed in accidental shooting by partner”

▪  “Woman Shoots Grandson, Mistook Him for Intruder”

▪  “Dog Accidentally Shoots Man”

We can talk about the total firearm deaths in this country — 32,351 in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — but let’s stick with the accidental shootings.

Many of these occurrences happen around individuals who are strong advocates of an armed citizenry, and who, in many cases, claim to be experts on the weaponry in their possession.

And yet the very presence of the firearm (in the home, a business or the back of a pickup in the case of the dog incident) leads to a horrific tragedy.

Between 2005 and 2010, almost 3,800 people in the United States died from unintentional shootings, with more than 1,300 of them under the age of 25, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

In 2010 alone, non-fatal gunshot wounds sent more more than 73,500 people to hospitals for treatment.

A 2013 study of child firearm deaths by The New York Times “found that accidental shootings occurred roughly twice as often as the records indicate, because of idiosyncrasies in how such deaths are classified by authorities.”

Citing Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence notes that the vast majority of unintentional injuries of people 19 and under were caused by guns stored in the residence of the victim, a relative or a friend.

Despite the obvious danger of firearms, there are members of the Texas Legislature who couldn’t wait to get to Austin this month to start filing bills to expand gun rights.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the Legislature “has been inundated with gun bills since pre-filing for the current legislative session began, and this time they have a better chance of passing.”

Among the proposed legislation are bills calling for “open carry” (as opposed to the concealed carry law); eliminating the need for a license to carry a handgun; the right to have guns in nursing homes, hospitals and polling places; and giving permission for school superintendents and board members to carry guns at meetings.

I’m a native Texan who grew up in a household of hunters, but I’ve never understood this obsession with guns from people in the Lone Star State.

Sadly, it is something I don’t think this state will ever get over.

And because of that, I suppose we’ll just have to get used to headlines like this one: “6-Year-Old Shot By Playmate, 4.”

Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. 817-390-7775

Twitter: @BobRaySanders

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