OF ALL the sad statistics associated with U.S. gun violence, none is more pitiful than the single digits that represent the ages of little children who unintentionally shoot themselves or others after getting hold of a gun.
The boy in Chicago who over the weekend fatally shot his younger brother in the face after he retrieved a gun from atop a refrigerator to play “cops and robbers” was 6 years old. His brother was 3. The child in South Carolina who shot his grandmother last week after finding a gun in the back seat of a car was 2 years old. The Oregon boy who wounded himself last month after his father left a gun unattended also was 2. In the St. Louis area, it was a 21-month-old who died in August after shooting himself with a gun he found at his grandmother’s house.
“The stories go on and on,” wrote The Post’s Christopher Ingraham in a searing analysis of news accounts that found 43 cases of children 3 or younger shooting themselves or someone else this year. That is, on average, a shooting a week. It’s likely that the tally — 13 toddlers who killed themselves, two who killed someone else, 18 who injured themselves and 10 who injured others — is an undercount because not all shootings are covered by the media. No count can capture the lasting emotional damage of these shootings, to those who shoot as well as, if they survive, those who are shot.
Invariably, the incidents are catalogued as accidents, but that misses the simple — and maddening — fact that they are entirely preventable accidents. We know how to keep 6-year-olds from being killers. States and localities could require gun owners to lock their guns away or use trigger locks. Consumers have become accustomed to passcodes or thumbprints to safeguard their phones; the same technology could be used to keep guns from being fired by anyone but their owners.
That these lifesaving efforts are not a routine matter of law or practice is due to the opposition of the gun lobby. Perhaps the National Rifle Association is prepared to argue that “guns don’t kill people, toddlers kill people.” Most everyone else ought to welcome policies that keep guns out of the hands of young children.