Monday, February 29, 2016

Iowa Law Would Let Children Under 14 Use Handguns

Earlier this month, the Iowa House passed a bill 62 to 36 that would allow children under 14 to use handguns with parental supervision.

Statehouse Republicans, including the bill's sponsor, Rep. Jake Highfill, said the legislation was an issue of parents' rights designed to correct "an injustice in Iowa code” that now forbids children 14 and younger from handling pistols.

Highfill said his measure would bring the law on children's use of handguns in line with regulations for shotguns and rifles, which don't restrict the age of children using them under parental supervision. Current Iowa law makes it a felony for a parent or guardian to allow a child younger than 14 to handle a pistol. Older children may do so with supervision.

The bill now heads to the state's Democratic-controlled Senate.

(Kim Bellware. “Iowa Lawmakers Approve Bill That Would Let Kids Have Handguns.” The Huffington Post. February 24, 2016.)

Some Sobering Statistics

In 2010, 15,576 children and teenagers were injured by firearms — three times more than the number of U.S. soldiers injured in the war in Afghanistan, according to the defense fund.

Nationally, guns still kill twice as many children and young people than cancer, five times as many than heart disease and 15 times more than infection, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence (2013) reports the following:

* "Thirty-three percent of U.S. households have a gun, and half of gun-owning households do not lock up their guns, including 40 percent of households with kids under age 18."

* "A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide (11 times more likely), a criminal assault or homicide (seven times more likely), or unintentional shooting death or injury (four times more likely) than in a self-defense shooting."

* "Most unintentional shooting deaths occur in the home (65 percent), based on data from 16 states. The most common context of the death (30 percent) was playing with the gun."

Opposition To the Handgun Bill

"What this bill does, the bill before us, allows for one-year-olds, two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds to operate handguns," said Kirsten Running-Marquardt, a Democratic Iowa state representative. "We do not need a militia of toddlers. We do not have handguns that I am aware of that fit the hands of a one- or two-year-old," said Running-Marquardt.

"Logically, this bill is completely ridiculous," Rep. Abby Finkenauer of Iowa said.

(Clyde Hughes. “Iowa Children Gun Law Would Allow Kids Under 14 to Use Handguns.” February 26, 2016.)

Despite backers of the bill, who point to the Second Amendment of the US Constitution and argue it should be up to parents to decide when the time is right to let their children use guns, a late study (2013) revealed that around 17 percent of children and teens that are at the risk of suicide have guns at their home and they know how to use both guns and the bullets.

Stephen Teach, associate chief of emergency medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., presented the research to the Pediatric Academic Societies. Teach said, "Half of all completed suicides in teenagers involved a firearm. Suicidal thinking and access to firearms can be a very volatile mix

Teach, along with doctors at Boston Children's Hospital and Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, surveyed teenagers and young adults in the emergency room to create a new, quick screen test for suicide risk. Many teenagers and young adults only have contact with the health care system in the ER, so the researchers saw it as a chance to find people at risk. Up to 40 percent of young people who kill themselves had no known mental illness

(Nancy Shute. “Guns At Home Pose A Risk For Suicidal Teens.” National Public Radio.
May 06, 2013.)

Responsible Adults?

A subsection in the proposed law makes the parent or guardian of the child in possession of the weapon "for any lawful purpose" responsible "to an injured party for all damages resulting from the possession of the pistol or revolver or ammunition therefore by that minor

Doesn't that subsection, in itself, speak of the lack of responsibility for a child under the age of 14 to be trusted with a handgun? Am I missing the bottom line here? To make a law just because some parents are willingly allowing their children to use these weapons is unjustifiable … even if some of these parents are extremely safe with their guns around children. We are bound to protect the public good. Have you considered who that “public” entails?

In my opinion, Jake Highfill and other proponents of the bill should be held responsible for their reckless lawmaking. I am willing to take all the flak from the NRA and the Gun Lobby. They can Second Amendment me until they pass out for lack of air. I see no reason young hunters or target shooters need a handgun. Period.

According to a new study by Everytown for Gun Safety, two children die almost every week in unintentional shootings — far more than government statistics show. Whether these deaths are the result of suicide, unintentional shooting, or some other cause, we, as adults, must take every possible precaution to prevent child gun deaths. That, I believe, includes keeping children's hands off of handguns.  

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