Children dying in Accidental Shootings and in Hot Cars

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 2nd, 2013

Week in Review

Accidents happen.  And people die.  Even children.  Some of these accidents we are more willing to forgive.  While some accidents we are not quite so willing to forgive (see Another Day, Another “Accidental” Child Shooting Death by Justin Peters posted 5/31/2013 on Slate).

On Wednesday, a two-year-old Texas boy named Trenton Mathis accidentally shot and killed himself with a handgun he found sitting on his great-grandfather’s nightstand. According to the website of KLTV, Mathis had gone into his great-grandparents’ bedroom in search of chewing gum. Instead, he found a loaded 9 mm handgun, which he used to shoot himself in the face. Mathis was pronounced dead at a Tyler, Texas hospital. He would have turned three years old in July.

Trenton Mathis didn’t have to die. His senseless death is a direct result of this country’s baffling indifference toward the basic principles of gun safety. As I’ve written before, “accidental” child shooting deaths are almost never truly accidental. They happen because parents and guardians keep their guns loaded and unattended in unsecured locations where children can easily get to them. Mathis’ great-grandmother told KLTV that her husband thought he had locked and closed the door to the room where he kept his handgun. He was wrong.

He goes on to note how many accidental deaths there were.  So far this year he noted 6 accidental shootings.  All tragedies of epic proportions.  Devastating all those connected to the tragedy.  But note the differences in tone when talking about accidental gun deaths.  And some other accidental deaths (see Child deaths in hot cars soar in May by Jayne O’Donnell posted 5/31/2013 on USA Today).

Summer hasn’t even arrived and the number of children who have died after being left in hot cars is nearly double the average for May, the advocacy group Kids and Cars said Friday.

Seven children died in hot cars during a 16-day period in four states. All but one was left by a family member, the group says…

“The worst thing any parent or caregiver can do is think that this could never happen to them, that they are not capable of inadvertently leaving their child behind,” says Kids and Cars founder Janette Fennell. “This can and does happen to the most loving, responsible and attentive parents.

That’s 7 accidental deaths in a 16-day period.  Compared to 6 accidental gun deaths in a 5 month period.  So children run a greater risk of being forgotten in a hot car than being accidentally shot.  Yet the adults in the less common accident, the gun accidents, might as well have pulled the trigger themselves.  For they are such horrible and irresponsible people.  But when it comes to the more common accident, forgetting a child in a hot car, we are much more forgiving and say these accidents can happen to anyone.

Any accident that results in the death of a child is a sad tragedy.  And no one knows that better than the person who might have prevented that accident.  Whose life will never be the same.  Whether a great-grandfather left a loaded handgun in his nightstand because the neighborhood isn’t as safe as it once was.  Or someone forgets that they have their child on a day they normally don’t.  Accidents do happen.  And it takes so little for them to happen.  The smallest irrelevant thing can distract your attention for a fraction of a second.  And in that fraction of a second events can unfold that will forever change your life.  Leaving you to live your remaining days knowing that it was your accident that caused such a horrible thing.

People need to be more careful.  As children are an awesome responsibility.  But accidents are accidents.  And you really can’t say one is worse than another.  Or one is better than another.  Even if more children die in hot cars than in accidental shootings.  For the people responsible for these accidents will no doubt feel the same anguish and depression for what they allowed to happen.


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