The issue of adult responsibility in the case of firearms related crimes and accidents involving minors is a very controversial and thought provoking issue. Statistics show that every year in the United States children are accidentally killed or seriously injured due to the negligence of adults who fail to secure their firearms in a responsible manner. The question is, should adults be held accountable and punishable for the crimes committed by children with unsecured firearms, and should adults be held responsible for the accidental shootings committed by children with unsecured firearms? After reading about this topic, I believe that holding adults responsible for these firearms related crimes and accidents is imperative to ensuring the emotional as well as physical health of our nation’s young people. I feel that the prosecution of adults whose children gain access to unsecured weapons is obligatory if a child accesses an unsecured firearm and causes serious injury or death to any person.
The problem of unsecured firearms is very real in this country. In 1994 alone, firearm related injuries were the second leading cause of death for young people 10-24 years of age. Most of these injuries were avoidable, and due in part to the failure of an adult to properly secure a lethal weapon. This news is disturbing, but even more disturbing is the fact that current laws concerning a child’s accessibility to firearms do not seem to be at all adequate. While other industries have minimum standards for safety, the firearms industry is largely unregulated. The manufacturers of guns have been left to regulate themselves. If the federal government would require mandatory safety locking devices on all handguns,this regulation would prove to be a phenomenal aide for consumers who purchase these weapons and store them in their homes. This, in turn, would partially alleviate the burden of parents having to install locking devices on their weapons. Ultimately,the result of this change in regulation would be fewer injuries and fatalities caused by young people who have gained access to unsecured weapons. Since our federal government has yet to sanction such regulations being placed upon the manufacturers of firearms,it is essentially the responsibility of every gun owner in our country to properly secure his or her weapon against being accessed by a minor.
Some people feel that an adult should be held primarily responsible for the crimes of a minor child, especially if said crime is committed with a weapon owned by the particular adult in question. Many others argue that an adult should only assume responsibility for such an accident or crime involving children only if he or she has failed to properly secure a lethal weapon. Then there are those individuals who lean toward the argument that happy and healthy children simply do not commit firearms related crimes. These are the people who believe that society needs to end its fixation on penalties and focus more on the proper rearing of children.
There are many people who believe that keeping a loaded weapon in a home occupied by minor children, or in a premises frequented by minors, should be considered tantamount to that individual pulling the trigger of the weapon if there is an incident involving the gun. In the state of California, if a person under the age of sixteen is likely to gain access to a weapon and the firearm is not properly secured with a locking device and therefore deemed inoperable, the responsible adult may be found guilty of a felony.
On the other end of the spectrum are those individuals with an altogether different take on the issue. These people believe that some parents are being unjustly punished for what most would classify as “unfortunate accidents.” Even though society as a whole seems to view gun control as a matter of parental responsibility, there are still those who are opposed to holding adults criminally responsible for the actions of children. Some in this category believe that even if parents place an enormous emphasis on teaching children about morality and gun safety, accidents are bound to occur.
In addition, there are some people who believe that society needs to end its fixation with punishment. Those who agree with this claim seem to be on the same wavelength as those who propose focusing on the mental health of children as a means of prevention for violent crime and accidental shootings among our youth. The point here being of course that punishment accomplishes little in the way of prevention. It is often used as a scare tactic, not as an educational tool.
After reviewing all of the evidence, I am compelled to agree with those individuals who believe that parents should be held accountable for the crimes committed by children using unsecured guns. As most of us know, curiosity is a natural human tendency, and children are the most curious of us all. It is up to adults to keep potentially hazardous implements out of the hands of children. After all, we wouldn’t keep extremely sharp knives within reach of our kids; why should guns be any different? Not only do I believe that adults should be required to secure their weapons properly to avoid prosecution, I believe that these same adults should be required by law to become educated in the safe handling and storage of guns they own. This will in turn preserve the lives of children. If more adults were held criminally responsible for the actions of their minor children, I tend to believe they would take a more active role in the manner in which their children are being raised. It is rather unfortunate though that we live in a society today that is not based upon the same system of morality and values as that of our grandparents. We have the right to bear arms, but we have a responsibility to protect our children.