A recent trio of shootings of young children in the Houston area who got their hands on loaded firearms, including a 4-year-old who was spending the night at a babysitter's home, are tragic—but don't call them accidents, Justin Peters writes in an article for Slate. In all three Houston cases, the firearms were found "in a purse, backpack, [or] under a bed." He writes that leaving a "readily dischargeable firearm in a place where it's accessible to a child" is a criminal misdemeanor in Texas. He adds that, per the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 28 states and DC have passed child access prevention (CAP) laws making this a crime. But adults shouldn't just heed legal requirements—common sense should come into play, too. And when it doesn't, this type of incident shouldn't be called "accidental."
"'Accidental' implies that nobody is at fault—that the shooting just happened, unpredictably, like an earthquake or other act of God," he explains. "But you can absolutely predict tragic outcomes from irresponsible gun-storage practices, and you can easily assign blame. I've never heard of unintentional child shootings in which the shooters were master safecrackers or expert lockpickers." He states it plainly: Keep a loaded gun on your person or in a gun safe. There are zero other appropriate places to store it. As for whether parents who don't, and who have clearly suffered as a result, should be punished, Peters writes that "CAP laws are only effective as a deterrent if they're vigorously enforced. Let's hope that Houston police and prosecutors choose to do so here." Read Peters' entire article on Slate. (Read more gun deaths stories.)