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Gun Control Laws Aren’t the Answer

I received the morning headlines in my email today, as usual. What mother could fail to notice the subject line Child's last word was 'Mama' ?

As I feared, it was yet another mournful tale of a parent who wasn't taking good care of her children blaming someone else for her child's death.

Woodard said she hadn't known there was a gun in the house, and that she had warned her children in the past about them. She said gun owners need to make sure weapons don't fall into the hands of children.

I am a mother. I am a gun owner. I am very much in favor of responsible gun ownership. I can't be surprised that Hunt was not a responsible gun owner. The man is a convicted felon who should not have had any gun in his possession. He (like most criminals) will likely be found to have acquired the firearm illegally.

All the background checks in the world wouldn't have prevented this crime. There are no laws that would have done so. By definition, criminals do not obey laws. The world is not made safer by passing more and more laws to restrict the behavior of law-abiding citizens.

The Centers for Disease Control tell us that twice as many children under the age of 10 die in bathtubs than by firearms every year. The National Safety Council tells us that we're all 31 times more likely to be killed by an automobile than by a gun.

Realistically, the only thing that could have prevented Raekwon's death is responsible parenting.

Did Woodard ask Hunt if there were guns in the home before leaving her children unattended? In fact, how well did she know the man? Did she know that he was a convicted felon? If she didn't know him well enough to have that information, why were her children in his house? If she did know he was a convicted felon, why were she and her children in his house?

How vividly did she warn her children about firearms? Was it one of those vague, "Guns are bad, don't touch them" statements? That's hardly adequate in a world in which most people will encounter firearms sooner or later. It's especially irresponsible in a parent who leaves her children unattended in places she hasn't personally checked for safety.

Your children will grow up happier and healthier if you are an active, responsible parent. They might get a chance to grow up, period—unlike Raekwon Woodard.

Note: This article began its life as a letter to the editor of the AJC in response to an article about the shooting of Raekwon Woodard by his brother, published May 4, 2004. (That article will not be available long, unless you want to pay for access to the stacks.) A few minutes after sending off my brief letter, I received a call from the AJC asking me to expand my letter to a column of about 400 words. They were running an editorial about the story, and stated that my article would serve as a counterpoint.

Background: Raekwon's mother, Chonita Woodard, was visiting the house of "a family friend," Zatar Hunt, on the morning of Monday, May 3. Hunt, according to the AJC, is a convicted felon. Woodard left the room and her younger son, Judarise (age 5), found a loaded handgun in a drawer and shot Raekwon (age 8). The AJC reported that Hunt was charged with reckless conduct, involuntary manslaughter and two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.