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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.