Home > Kids > Childhood Safety > Home Safety > How Kids Get Guns, Part I

How Kids Get Guns, Part I

"I Don't Know"

On Monday Dec. 6, 1999, a 7th grader at a middle school in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma walked up to a group of classmates waiting for the morning bell and allegedly opened fire with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun, wounding four classmates. When asked by a sheriff's deputy why he did it, the unidentified 13 year-old reportedly answered, "I don't know."

Does anyone know how to stop children from gaining access to guns? FamilyEducation.com asked gun control activist John Rosenthal for his perspective on the issue. Rosenthal is co-founder of Stop Handgun Violence Inc., based in Newton, Mass., and a member of the board of directors of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence in Washington, DC.

Q: How does a 7th grader get a gun?

A: Kids access guns easily because there's at least one gun in 40 percent of American homes. 30 to 40 percent of those guns are left loaded and unlocked. Roughly 80 percent of school shootings have occurred when kids access their parents' or relatives' guns. At Columbine the weapons used were purchased at gun shows, which are virtually cash and carry.

Q: What about the Brady Law? Didn't that deal with the problem of easy gun access?

A: That's a common misconception. The Brady Law, passed in '93, was a good start, but only a start. It requires a five-day waiting period and a background check before you can buy a gun. It made it illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer. But a loophole allows 18 to 21 year-olds to buy guns from private or unlicensed individuals. Gun shows and private sales are still unregulated. Toy guns and teddy bears have more federal regulation than firearms. I think if people really understood that, they'd be crazed.

How Much Do People Support Gun Control?

Q: But polls show the public supports strong gun control. Why hasn't Congress responded with tougher legislation?

A: Because people haven't converted their outrage into action. Congress only hears from the NRA (The National Rifle Association) and the NRA has bought Congress.

Q: What's the single most effective thing that could happen legislatively to keep guns out of the hands of kids?

A: The best thing would be to replicate the Massachusetts gun laws, which are among the toughest in the country. Massachusetts treats guns like cars. Cars are made to drive and we require training, licensing, and regulation. Guns are inherently more dangerous and have few of those requirements. Since 1994 Massachusetts has reduced gun injuries by 53%. Nationally, it's a different story. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is supposed to regulate the industry, but the Firearms Owners Protection Act, passed in 1986, prohibits the ATF from making more than one dealer inspection per year.

Q:What do you say to gun control opponents who say owning a gun is a right, while driving a car is a privilege?

A: There have been more than 40 Supreme Court decisions that say gun ownership is a privilege. You have "the right" to have a National Guard, but those rights don't extend to individual gun owners.

Q: What can individual parents do to stop gun violence?

A:When a child is going over to play at a friend's house, always ask the parents or guardians whether there is a gun in the household and how it is secured. Five children a day, under age 19, are killed by the accidental discharge of a firearm, or by suicide. If you're a gun owner, lock up your gun and separate your ammunition. If you're a Mom, consider attending the "Million Mom March" set for Mother's Day this May in Washington. They'll be focusing on the upcoming election and calling on Congress to pass commonsense gun laws.


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks