By Peggy Walsh
BCWAC Gun Safety Specialist
I just read that a member of Philadelphia City Council is introducing legislation to fine adults $25 if children in their care use hoverboards without helmets, knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards. According to a hand-and-arm specialist from the Rothman Institute, “We have seen a number of injuries [from hoverboard accidents] that require surgery.”
I am not sure how many children have been injured or killed in hoverboard accidents, but according PolitiFact’s extensive work with competing statistics, guns are responsible for:
- 4.76 unintentional injuries and 3.85 deaths each day for children under 18.
- Eight gun-related deaths and nine injuries per day (adding, as the CDC does for the study of childhood injury prevention, 18 and 19-year-olds).
I agree we should hold parents and guardians responsible for ensuring that their children are protected while riding hoverboards. My question is, “Where is the same call to protect our children from an even greater threat than the hoverboard?”
If one child dies from suffocation in a crib, there is an immediate recall and a national alert; if two children are sickened by contaminated food, there is a massive recall and a national alert; if three children die or are injured in a car crash in which safety belts or ignition systems fail, the manufacturer is sued. How can we Americans sit passively and quietly while a killer and maimer of our children goes entirely unregulated?
American children under 15 are nine times more likely to die in gun accidents than children anywhere in the developed world. This startling statistic is due to many factors but I think there are two vital causes:
- It is estimated that 40 percent of guns in this country are obtained without background checks. Here in Pennsylvania, anyone can go to a weekend gun show and buy a long gun from a “private seller” without a background check. That means a mentally ill person, criminal, or a domestic abuser can buy a Bushmaster X15 similar to the one used by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook massacre at a gun show in PA without obtaining a background check.
- PA has no law holding gun owners responsible for the safe storage of their guns. Nationally, one in three homes with children have guns and 80 % of unintentional firearm deaths of children under 15 occur in a home. If your child or grandchild visits a friend with a gun in the home, and he or she is killed or shot by the other child or vice versa, the owner cannot be prosecuted for negligence.
Currently, there is proposed legislation in Harrisburg to address both of the above problems:
- HB 1010 and SB 1049 would close the long gun loophole.
- HB 415 would make gun owners responsible for preventing children from getting access to guns.
No, we cannot protect our children and grandchildren from every danger, but surely, if we can regulate the use of hoverboards, we can and must demand the regulation of firearms, so that fewer of our children will become victims of gun violence. We can take common-sense steps that will decrease the likelihood of their being killed or injured by a gun that is obtained legally without a background check or by an unsafely stored firearm in someone’s home. Call your legislators and ask them to support the mentioned bills and to work in a bipartisan fashion to develop sensible firearm regulations. We can’t save our children from all harm, but that reality should not stop us from doing what we can to protect them from a danger greater than a hoverboard accident.