The family of a North Carolina woman says that she should not be facing charges after her 9-year-old son was killed by her 12-year-old son with a pistol he found in their home.
The mother’s defense?
She claims that the firearm was left in the home by an ex-boyfriend, and that she didn’t know the handgun was there:
Amy Suzanne Pittman, 36, was arrested Wednesday on manslaughter and 10 other charges in the April 28 death of Christian Patterson, who authorities say was shot by his 12-year-old brother while they played with a gun at their home on Macon Street.
After a court appearance Thursday on an unrelated traffic charge, her aunt said the gun belonged to Pittman’s ex-boyfriend and that she did not know it was in the home.
Pittman, who family members also say wasn’t home at the time, also faces three counts each of felony gross negligence child abuse, misdemeanor child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one count of failure to store firearms to protect minors.
Unless an ex-boyfriend materializes and admits that he hid the gun in the home—taking the blame for the crime in the process—then I suspect that Ms. Pittman is probably staring at a conviction on the most serious charges. As the adult in the home, she has a moral and legal requirement to insure that firearms in the home are stored in a manner where they cannot be accessed by minors.
A competent prosecutor will shred a defense of “I didn’t know it was there,” especially as she also faces charges of child abuse for an alleged repeated pattern of leaving her children home alone for long periods of time without adult supervision in addition to the gun storage charge. Her conduct since the death of her son—including night after night of partying after her son’s death before her arrest—isn’t likely to play well in court, either.
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While the number of accidental child gun deaths continues on a decades long nationwide decline, the fact remains that the vast majority of these deaths could have been prevented if the parents in the home followed basic safe storage guidelines.
If you have children (or irresponsible/unsafe adults) in the home, you have a responsibility (and in many states, a legal obligation) to store your firearms in a locked container where it cannot be accessed by unauthorized individuals, including those guns kept for home defense.
While we’re not endorsing any particular model and are simply providing examples, key-locked NanoVault can be delivered to your door for less than $30 dollars, and a keypad-activated Stack-On can be had for less than $50. Both are far less than the cost of three boxes of FMJ practice ammo, and can be opened in a matter of seconds.
I’d hate for any of you to lose a child because you thought they couldn’t find a gun that you hid, or you thought that they were impervious to their curiosity even after you gave them a lecture on gun safety.