Second Amendment

02.02.15 7:19 PM ET

How a Toddler Shot His Parents

A three-year-old in Albuquerque was looking for an iPod when he instead grabbed his pregnant mother’s handgun and shot both of his parents with one bullet. In a country with 1.7 million houses with unsecured, loaded guns in them, the only surprise is that these tragedies don’t happen more often.

Recently, the so-called happiest place on Earth became the site of a not-very-gleeful, viral outbreak, that of the measles, "eliminated" in the United States, to much fanfare, back in 2000. Obesity in the United States continued its march upward last year, with nearly 10% of American adults suffering from diabetes--more than double the number of only 20 years ago.

And, this weekend, a 3-year-old in a northeast Albuquerque reached into his 8-months-pregnant mom's purse looking for her iPod, but instead found her gun, proceeding to shoot her and his father with one shot. Luckily for them, they will both survive.

What do all these cases have in common? America's unique brand of stupid, where anti-vaxxers trust a former Playboy model for their health information and where other ignore or deride healthy diet information shared by the First Lady solely because of her party, or worse. Where a phrase in the Second Amendment of the Constitution, clearly granting "well-regulated" militias the right to weapons for defense of the homeland has been translated into any yahoo's right to publicly carry military weapons, in many parts of the country without a permit, with a criminal record and no idea how to safely aim, store or hold a gun.

Frankly, the above themes pretty much lay out the thesis of "legitimate" Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's new book: "God, Guns, Grits & Gravy" (not gay though, for he made it clear this weekend that unlike guns or gravy, that "lifestyle" is unhealthy). It’s exactly as pathetically trite and pandering as it sounds, with the usual bromides about how all the virtuous people not on our coasts (which I suppose includes me, as I live in Cincinnati?) know better than listening to damn Commie doctors and scientists.

Guns don't kill good people, you see.

Guns are always sexy and nobody ever gets hurt, like for example, what happened this weekend in a New Mexico hotel room (or when kids in Minnesota play cops and robbers or when moms in Idaho go shopping or…).

In this case, the parents will live, and it seems at first blush they may even get prosecuted. This is actually a big deal. Often in these cases, we hear from the police that "the parents have suffered enough" or it was an "accident." Because, this weekend, in one of the 1.7 million households that allow unsecured, loaded guns to sit around waiting for a curious child—a curious child merely played his role.

In fact, a gun in the home is a significant risk factor for homicide, suicide, and unintentional shootings, according to the Brady Center’s recent report “The Truth About Kids and Guns” shows that one out of three homes with children has guns, many left unlocked or loaded.

Funny thing: If you let your three-year old play near your pool and go inside for a snooze or don't put on their seatbelt because that's Big Government Tyranny—you won't hear about accidents or the poor parents having already gone through hell. You’ll only hear about the neglect of a child.

Whether Tea Party or libertarian or whatever you want to call the “don’t tread on me” impulse, this idea cannot be an organizing principle when it drifts into obtuseness and gets other innocent people killed. There are many smart, able, and reasonable people out there, but if even 10 percent of American adults (and this would be quite generous) lack any judgment or common sense, that is 24,200,000 Americans, per the 2013 census. That’s too many people whom we're supposed to just trust to use good sense with a loaded weapon. 

I believe there's a conservative demi-god who once said "trust, but verify." So yeah, what he said.

If the lives of my children are on the line, I need a bit more to go on than "don't tread on me."

Through law and regulation we do this with most potentially dangerous things, from what speed you're allowed to drive to how old your kids need to be to allow them in the hotel hot tub. We can similarly regulate, encourage (see, for example, The Ask Campaign), and use shaming techniques to get people to safely lock up their guns, vaccinate their kids and maybe feed them a salad every once in a while.  

Yeah, I know we can't outlaw doltishness. But we don't have to glorify it. And we certainly don't have to enable it—via lack of sensible regulation—to hurt innocent bystanders.