On his MSNBC show “All In,” Chris Hayes last night explored the case of Caroline Sparks and its implications for the country. Sparks is a 2-year-old Kentuckian who was killed by her 5-year-old brother this week with a .22-caliber Crickett rifle. It was an accident, CNN reported.

Hayes issued his opinion as to what differentiated this incident from many other gun-safety lapses: “Not with a gun the 5-year-old just found laying around somewhere — with his own gun.” The boy had received the rifle for his birthday, state officials told CNN.


We don`t manufacture or market alcohol for children or steak knives or cars or cigarettes or jugs of liquid Drano. But, apparently, we`re all supposed to be OK with gun companies designing and marketing deadly weapons for kids because that`s part of this culture, introducing them to guns early on, passing on this sacred tradition.

When I read the story of Caroline Sparks, I have to say, I’m not part of gun culture. And I really do try to be open-minded as we have this policy conversation across a vast country with deficit habits and norms and rituals.

But there is something dark at work here, something folks that are part of gun culture should be talking about. If gun culture is going to be the foundation for the kind of politics we have, which brooked no regulation at all, even when that regulation is designed to safeguard the lives and limbs of gun owners themselves. If the politics are the result kind of culture that says it’s OK to give a 5-year-old a gun — well, then, I’m sorry, we need to talk about this culture. It can’t be the elephant in the room.

Since Newtown, the gun debate has swerved all over the place: From whether people need assault rifles, to whether people need a tank, to whether magazines can be controlled, to whether universal background checks will help and so on. The issue of gun safety has also figured in the discussion, but it hasn’t had a case of this poignancy to stand on.

Bet that Hayes will continue to crusade on the example of Caroline Sparks, because civilization is incompatible with a toddler killed by a 5-year-old with his own rifle. It just is.