The New England Journal of Medicine reported new CDC data from 2020 that showed gun-related deaths surpassed auto accidents to be the number-one cause of death for Americans aged 0-19. 4.6 million American children live in homes with at least one gun that is both unlocked and loaded. This easy access to firearms is dangerous, sometimes fatal: in an Everytown analysis of over 2,000 unintentional shootings by children under 18 years old from 2015 to 2020, there were 765 deaths and 1,366 injuries. Children as young as three years old can have enough strength to pull the trigger of a gun. Seven out of ten unintentional child shootings happened in homes, at times children were likely to be home (such as during the weekend or school or summer vacation). Ease of access to unsecured and/or loaded weapons and ammunition enables children to shoot themselves or others, often unknowingly, leading to fatal injuries or death. Such preventable pain and trauma is borne not only by the child, but the child’s family, friends, and larger community.
The lowest rates of injury or death from unintentional child shootings occurred in states with secure storage laws. Ethan’s Law (S. 173) would federally mandate safe storage of firearms in residences where minors and/or persons unauthorized to have firearms reside, thereby decreasing the likelihood of unintentional shootings by children, and impose strict penalties for safe storage violations.
In Jewish tradition, children are considered a blessing and gift from God, that their very breath is free of sin (Shabbat 119a). In Maimonides’ view, children are unaware of right and wrong and various Jewish texts intone the obligation of parents to teach their children the difference. As such, a minor – especially a young child – picking up an unsecured weapon lacks the capacity to understand the danger of firing that weapon and the permanence of injury or death.
It is deeply disturbing and upsetting that any family should suffer the preventable trauma of their child unintentionally shooting themselves or others. As Reform Jews, we are called to demand that Congress protect all children and communities from such heartbreaking and preventable loss of life.
Urge your members of Congress to support Ethan’s Law!
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