A 2-year-old Olney boy died after he shot himself in the head Nov. 9 with a gun that had been reported stolen in Chetenham in 2015.
A 3-year-old girl may lose her little leg. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, she shot herself with a gun she found in her Kingsessing home.
A 3-year-old Tioga boy was wounded when an older brother shot him in the forehead Oct. 21.
Easy access to guns led to the death and maiming of these children, just as easy access to guns is a prime driver in the city’s high rate of gun crimes. The most recent police statistics show there were 230 homicides involving guns and 1,279 non-fatal shootings in Philadelphia in 2016.
Bad enough that every day brings about four shootings, but too many of those are with guns that have been lost or stolen. And the National Rifle Association and other gun industry shills are enablers of this, by mounting aggressive opposition to any gun bill, even the most seemingly uncontroversial like ending pigeon shoots.
The Trace, a gun violence research project, reports that 237,000 guns were stolen last year, a 68 percent increase since 2005. That figure is considered conservative, with estimates from other sources reaching 350,000 guns stolen every year. Guns are swiped from car seats, closet shelves, and coffee tables and many wind up at crime scenes. Those guns were used to kill, rape, maim, hold up, and otherwise terrorize others.
Massachusetts is the only state that requires gun owners to lock up their weapons. It’s been effective, especially in reducing teen suicides. Nationally guns are used in 39 percent of youth suicides. In Massachusetts, it’s 9 percent.
And, because distressed young people can’t get their hands on guns, the most lethal of weapons, to attempt suicide, the “overall suicide death rate among youth in Massachusetts is 35 percent below the national average,” according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, in San Francisco.
According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, 2,549 children in the country died of gunshot wounds and an additional 13,576 were injured in 2014. Most children know where their parents’ guns are and 80 percent of the guns used in suicides were found at home. That is a compelling reason for forcing gun owners to lock up their weapons.
New York City and San Francisco have local safe storage rules. Philadelphia should follow their lead especially because any hope that the gun lobby flunkies in Pennsylvania’s legislature will do anything to help the innocent from being shot is futile. City Council members have decried the daily carnage; a safe storage law could turn their words into action. Such a law would be entirely enforceable.
Newly elected District Attorney Larry Krasner has promised to enforce the city’s lost and stolen gun ordinance, which requires owners to tell police when their guns are lost and stolen. That’s a way to smoke out straw buyers who buy guns for criminals barred from gun ownership. Krasner should report to the public how many gun law violations he’s prosecuted so they can make sure he sticks to the plan.
Rather than mourn more deaths from lost or stolen guns, it’s time for city leaders to take real action.