A SPARE few paragraphs in the local and national media described the death of Shelby Elizabeth Sims. The 23-year-old South Carolina woman was killed early on Nov. 14 by her husband when, as police recounted, his gun fired while he waved it around during a card game. Her death demands attention not because it is an anomaly but rather an example of the tragically commonplace: pointless deaths that occur when guns are readily available.
Jeremy Sims, 25, who has been charged by Spartanburg County authorities in his wife’s death, was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana before his gun went off, police said. Had Mr. Sims not had access to a gun, probably the worst consequence of his behavior would have been a hangover. Instead, his wife of four years is dead, their child was placed in protective custody and he faces a murder charge.
Most of the national debate about gun violence has centered on mass shootings; but for all their unquestioned horror, they account for just a fraction of the carnage that results from guns. Nearly 300 people a day are shot in murders, assaults, attempted and successful suicides and unintentional shootings. Every day, on average, nearly 90 people die from gun violence. Particularly heartbreaking, as we have written, are the instances of children who are accidentally killed, too often by other children. The numbers — and the tragedies behind them — are a result of U.S. gun policies that allow and even encourage firearms to circulate freely.
We do not know why Mr. Sims had a gun or why, as police said, he brought it to a card game. Perhaps, like many Americans who have bought into the argument of the gun lobby, he thought it necessary for self-defense. But having guns in homes actually increases risks. There is a higher chance that a gun in the home will result in an accidental shooting, be used in a suicide or a suicide attempt, or escalate an argument to a lethal end than that it will be used for self-protection. This country can continue to ignore those facts, but, in doing so, it plays a deadly game.