Monday, December 8, 2008

Gun Tragedy Opens Debate

The tragic death of fourteen year old Josef Cruickshank has propelled the gun control issue back into the spotlight once again. At this time it is not clear exactly what happened. What we do know is that Josef was staying at his friend’s house for a sleep over. He was shot in the face and neck, and ambulance officers were unable to save him. His friend, who is also 14 years old, has been arrested. On legal advice, the friend has not made a statement to police, who have subsequently laid a charge of murder, and he has been released on bail. What we don’t know are such things as the circumstances around the event, or who owns the shotgun involved. It has been reported that the mother of the victim considers it an accident and is pleading with police to drop the charges.

While the police are yet to complete their investigation and the matter will be dealt with by the court, there are a number of questions which immediately spring to mind. How is it that a pair of fourteen year old boys came to be handling a shot gun? Were they under any supervision? And most importantly, who is the adult responsible for the security and safe storage of the gun?

Guns are a fact of life. In rural areas in particular they are just a part of everyday existence. Many people have perfectly valid reasons to own guns, and most are perfectly responsible. But it is events such as this which highlight the reasons for having sensible and practical laws and regulations for how we handle guns, and for their safe storage. Those laws exist to prevent exactly the kind of tragedy which has now unfolded. For that reason, it is only right to ask if those laws and regulations are adequate and appropriate. It’s also reasonable to ask if any of those laws have been ignored. Whether or not that is the case will presumably emerge in due course, but either way, these are questions that need to be asked.

It is often claimed by the gun lobby that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Aside from the glib tone associated with that claim, it is actually the perfect argument why some people should not be allowed to have a gun. That in turn means that adequate gun control measures are essential for responsible gun ownership. And even in the case of an accidental shooting, surely it must be obvious even to idiots that without the gun, the accident would not have happened.

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