Years ago, my parents were still alive and living in Albany, New York. I had arranged a lunch with some colleagues at their house. I do not recall why exactly, but that is what I did.
In the house lived my parents Joe and Betty, Grandma (dad’s mother) and Great Aunt Tillie (mom’s stepfather’s sister). Grandma and Tillie were very old so they took lots of medicine. Also, they were very old and therefore had a special dispensation from the pharmacy, allowing them to get the medicine in non-child proof bottles.
So the colleagues came over, and that included a woman with her young son, older than toddler age but not much. During our lunch, he was off in the kitchen or someplace amusing himself with a coloring book or something.
But then the child walked into the room and we could see that his face, mainly around his mouth, was covered with azure blue substance, as were his hands. Just as realization of what this blue substance was dawned on his mother, I, the others, Great Aunt Tillie, who had just walked into her bedroom (she had been in Grandma’s bedroom watching soaps), exclaimed, “My medicine!!!!”
If you drive out of the driveway of that house on Hackett and swing around the Boulevard in the middle of the road, you go through a red light no matter what (because it is always red in one direction). Then you can drive down the street and encounter one more red light, then at the corner of S. Manning, there is another, then you can turn right then left and swing directly into the emergency room entrance of St. Peter’s hospital. In other words, it is about a 300 second drive if you ignore the lights. The mother of the child with the blue face, who had clearly just eaten an entire bottle of Great Aunt Tillie’s blood pressure medicine, did so. Meanwhile, the bottle, now empty, was gathered up, and a call to the hospital was made. By the time the young boy was being taken out of the car and shuffled into the hospital, the ER staff was ready and they pumped his stomach. He was not made critically ill, he lived. The blue dye took a while to get off.
He was lucky. That could have been a gun.
One day I was standing in the dining room in the home of my then mother-in-law, Ardith. It was Thanksgiving morning. Ardith was about to set the table with my help, and she asked me go into the drawer of the Prairie Style built-in cabinet at one end of the dining room, and pull out the place mats. I opened the wrong drawer, and instead of seeing place mats, I saw folded up table cloths. Not yet realizing that I had the wrong drawer, I pulled up the corner of the table cloths, expecting to find a layer of place mats underneath.
There were no place mats, but there was a .32 caliber Smith and Wesson pearl handled revolver. No holster, loaded.
“What’s this, a gun?” I said, lamely.
My mother-in-law was at first very surprised to see this, had no idea what it was. Then, she remembered. That pistol had been under those never-used table cloths for years. It was her brother’s, or something. Something she always meant to get rid of. Had no idea why she hadn’t yet. So then, she did. She got rid of it. I don’t remember how. Good thing I found it and not some blue-faced kid.
I know of a young girl who tried to commit suicide, but was rescued and went through treatment. Not long after the event her home was invaded by a sexual predator. She and her mother got rid of him, but it was a bit traumatic. So, mom bought a gun, found a place to keep it, and told her daughter, who was still very much in suicidal mode, where the gun was kept. I’ll tell you how that story ended in a moment.
A few years ago I was helping people to manage the materials of a medium size middle class suburban estate. The owner had died and we were sorting everything into categories. Stuff individuals wanted. Stuff to give to the veterans. Stuff to give to Goodwill. Stuff for the estate sale. Stuff for Craig’s List. All that. Also, stuff for the dumpster. It was an enormous amount of work. A lot of stuff fell through the cracks, most likely, and even though I personally had my hands on pretty much every item in this estate, if you asked me where a particular item ended up, in many cases I couldn’t tell you. It was all happening very fast, it was a hot summer, there was a lot of sweat and toil and confusion.
Among the items was a revolver, unloaded but with a box of bullets, in a cardboard box. It could have gone to any one of these places. As it turns out, the family decided to include it in the estate sale — estate sale managers know what to do with firearms because many, many estates have these long forgotten random guns. But it could easily have ended up in a box of junk somewhere, a box of stuff we never had time to really look through. Hell, it could have ended up at Goodwill or inside a box of other stuff that someone picked up via Craig’s list.
A few days ago, a family with I think five kids had the chance to buy a hover board for one of the kids, used, via something like Craig’s List or at a garage sale, or something. So they did. They took the box home but did not get around to opening it. Everybody was busy with school and stuff. It could wait for later.
Two days ago, the kids were all home and playing outside, with some friends. One of the kids, an 8 year old boy, went inside the house, quite possibly to dig out the hover board to play with. In the process of doing so, he found a pistol that had been tossed in the box. He assumed, I’ll guess, it was a toy. But it was a loaded gun. Within a minute or so after discovering the gun, he was dead.
Only a few people are killed in the US each year because somebody treated a handgun like just another piece of stuff we keep in a drawer or a box. Tens of thousands of people are killed each year by guns in the US, though, because of a lot of different scenarios. This is only one of them.
But all these things are related. Mass shootings, including mass shootings in schools, criminal activity that results in shootings, suicides, accidental shootings of all kinds, are all related in America, because we have a pro-gun culture which sees treating guns as dangerous items as somehow unfair, or unconstitutional. (See this for further discussion on the links.) And, because this pr-gun culture results in there simply being a gazillion guns. Guns are everywhere, even in random places kids can stumble into.
Gun deaths are so common for a lot of reasons related to this gun culture, but almost all the reasons can be distilled down to two:
1) People are stupid about and careless with guns; and
2) A small number of people are so into having guns as toys (and extensions of their personalities, etc.) that we have a plethora of guns and they are pretty much out of control.
You are responsible for the guns in your life, including the guns that show up and volunteer to be part of your life. You need to keep the guns unloaded and locked up, the ammo separate.
Some of you will say, “yeah but…” then produce some lame excuse about someone invading your home. For you, I have special instructions.
1) Make your home hard to invade. They have these things called locks. They make it hard to open a door or window. Get locks;
2) Make your home noisy to invade, so if someone is invading your home, you get warning before they are there. They make easy to use inexpensive alarms for that purpose, or you can do something more professional. Or just tie a tin can to your doorknob;
3) When the home invasion starts to happen, you will have several minutes to call 911, unlock your gun, load it, and search around for the invader;
4) But be careful, because in scenarios like this, the home owner with the gun actually has a higher chance of injury or death because they are armed. You may not believe or understand that. Fine. The fact that you do not understand how that happens is precisely why it has a good chance of happening. I can’t help you with that; and
5) Try not to shoot anyone innocent, like the relative coming home late or the drunk neighbor who got confused, or the cop that came to help you.
What happened in the case of the young woman who was suicidal, who’s mother brought the gun home and told her where it was? Well, having been to some therapy already, she had more than a little clue about what to do. She told her mother to that getting a firearm and, essentially, handing it to her suicidal daughter, was not OK. So the gun was hidden better, but I suspect their relationship was never quite the same after that.