Guns Ownership Isn't Child Endangerment

Seth Wenig

There are certain things we associate with child endangerment. Leaving a kid in a car on a hot day, for example. Another is providing drugs or alcohol to a child, or buying tobacco products for a kid. We know that crosses the line.

However, following an incident in Maine, a columnist is trying to make the case that having a loaded gun in the house is basically the same thing.

Nothing shines a spotlight on Maine’s child-endangerment law like a 2-year-old boy who shoots both of his sleeping parents with a loaded weapon.

It happened in West Bath on the morning of May 12.

According to police, the 9 mm semiautomatic handgun was sitting on a night table when the toddler picked it up and pulled the trigger. The single shot hit the boy’s mother in the leg, and two bullet fragments hit the father in the back of the head. The little boy was injured as well when the gun recoiled and struck him in the face.

Thankfully, all three are recovering. Even more thankfully, a 3-week-old infant in the same room at the time was not harmed.

That might have a lot to do with the child-endangerment law, which Rep. Vicki Doudera, D-Camden, is hard at work trying to change. As she put it in a separate interview, “Why not make it crystal clear and spell out that you can’t leave loaded guns around where kids are going to get them?”

To see how out of whack Maine’s statute is, one need only scan the first few lines: A person is guilty of endangering the welfare of a child when that person “knowingly permits a child to enter or remain in a house of prostitution.”

Just under that, the statute assigns guilt when a person “knowingly sells, furnishes, gives away … to a child under 16 years of age any intoxicating liquor, tobacco product … air rifles, gunpowder, smokeless powder or ammunition for firearms.”

And what does the statute say about allowing kids to get their hands on actual guns?

Now, let’s start by looking at the event in question. The child entered the bedroom during the night, obtained the firearm, and pulled the trigger.

This is awful and I’m glad no one was killed, but can we stop pretending the gun was the problem here?

All across the nation, there are millions of loaded weapons kept in nightstands during the night. Millions. And how often does something like this happen? Almost never, when you look at the statistics.

See, the problem here isn’t that a gun existed in a given time or place. The problem is that the children weren’t taught not to plunder through other people’s things.

Granted, this was a two-year-old kid, but kids can start to learn early. They can learn not to touch things that don’t belong to them. They don’t have to like it, but they should have to learn it.

And yes, I do think people should take care with where they leave their weapons. Don’t get me wrong.

Yet the author here wants to penalize anyone who has a loaded weapon in proximity to a child, all based on a handful of isolated cases. I’m sorry, but as I said previously, most of those cases are because a kid was poking around in other people’s stuff. While it’s awful when any child gets hurt, it’s time we start looking at parents rather than the gun.

The author decries loaded guns in the home, but the problem is that an unloaded gun is nothing but a paperweight if someone breaks into your house.

So yeah, there are going to be loaded guns in homes and there should be. Penalizing people for that won’t make anyone safer…except for the bad guys who can take advantage of that situation.

I somehow don’t think this author will revisit the issue after a family gets slaughtered in their home because no one could get the gun loaded fast enough to resist the home invasion.