Placer County Sheriff’s Deputy Ken Skogen’s three-year-old daughter is dead after accidentally shooting herself with her father’s gun. Investigators declined to provide specifics, save the fact that the gun involved was not Skogen’s service weapon. The predictable yet powerful reaction to the preventable tragedy: shock, horror, grief and Monday morning quarterbacking from both sides of the gun control debate. On one hand, the union. The president of the Placer County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association was quick to draw a line under the event. “No words can explain what has happened beyond saying that it was a tragic accident,” Josh Tindall told the Sacramento Bee. “The anguish that the family, their friends, and co-workers are experiencing cannot be expressed and we ask you all for your support and understanding.” As the paper points out, this is the third incident involving an accidental child firearm fatality in a cop’s abode in the last two years.
Such tragedies appear rare. In Northern California, it’s happened twice in recent years: The 4-year-old son of a Redding police officer died in 2008 after accidentally shooting himself in the head. Earlier the same year, a Sutter County sheriff’s deputy lost his 3-year-old after the boy grabbed his loaded gun and shot himself.
What’s it gonna take for police—trained law enforcement officers no less—to follow basic firearm safety rules? Maybe the cops should screen their hiring and training procedures to weed out the more lackadaisical amongst them. Meanwhile, the gun control advocates are out in force, warning that the safest way to store a gun in a house with children is not to have one. A gun, I mean.
“If we rely on the behavior of parents to make the home risk-free, we’re going to fail,” Dr. Garen Wintemute, emergency medicine physician and director of Davis’ Violence Prevention Research Program, told the Bee. “Nobody is perfect.”
I got to work it. Again and again until I get it right. Or not.
“The best precaution,” the doctor said, “is to keep guns out of homes with young children. Gun locks and safes are the next best options.”
“Having a gun loaded and just hidden away, and assuming the kids won’t find it,” Wintemute said. “The kids always find it.”
That’s sensible, right? Responsible. And then the common ground disappears beneath his feet.
He also cautioned against relying on training children about the dangers of guns and expecting they won’t touch any they come across.
Studies have shown such training to be ineffective, Wintemute said.
“Even when (children are at the age) they can tell you reliably that they shouldn’t be messing with guns, they still do because children are explorers,” he said. “It’s how they learn to master the world.”
Or end it. Either wear it or lock it up. Better gun safe than sorry. But, at the same time, NOT teaching young children what a gun is and does, making them understand the exact dangers, is also the height of irresponsibility. Gun safety starts between the ears.