Responsible gun ownership

A Jackson County man is facing a world of legal trouble and pain after having been charged in the shooting death of his 11-year-old niece at the end of June.

At the time of this writing, Andrew Scott Jackson, 36, of Cottageville, had been charged with felony child neglect resulting in death after the shooting, though law enforcement appeared to believe there would be several other charges coming.

He had reportedly been cleaning his mother’s gun when it fired. He was shot in the hand … his niece was shot in the chest.

There is so much about this story that bothers me, if the reports are accurate.

Jackson was not supposed to own guns at all, because of a felony drug conviction.

But it sounds as though his mother let him handle her guns relatively frequently. You see, according to the report, she told deputies she had already warned Jackson about handling guns with children in the room. And a month before this horrific incident, she received powder burns from another accidental discharge of a gun held by Jackson.

I would think responsible gun owners would be astounded at some of the lapses in judgment that appear to have taken place before this tragedy unfolded. And please understand, I have no problem with guns, or the Second Amendment, or those who do indeed take seriously the responsibility that comes with gun ownership.

I have questions here, though. The report states that Jackson’s mother warned him about handling guns with children in the room. Had he ever been warned about making sure they weren’t loaded before he started cleaning them? Had he ever been admonished not to mess around with them? What kind of thinking goes into knowing a person is not legally allowed to possess his own guns, and therefore allowing him frequent access to those belonging to someone else?

It is heart-wrenching stories like this one that make it so easy for some to declare the need for much stricter gun laws. I get that. Unfortunately, it is this same kind of story that proves such declarations invalid. This man had already had his right to own a gun taken away. It is true the law only works if people — and those around them, in this case — follow it.

Meanwhile, the most important thing to remember from this story is that an 11-year-old girl is dead. She is dead because, it seems, some very bad decisions were made by more than one person. The law will sort out what consequences can be meted out for that; though I hope for the sake of that little girl and the rest of her loved ones they are the strongest the law allows.

Surely such a tragedy will spark others who may have become a little lax in meeting their own responsibilities as a gun owner. Do not leave unloaded guns where others can get to them. Make sure everyone in your household understands the rules, and how to handle a gun safely. Do NOT let someone use or even handle your guns if they are not supposed to own guns (or if you have even the slightest reason to believe they will be reckless with them). For goodness sake make sure your kids — whatever their age — have a healthy respect for, rather than a fascination with, guns.

My heart goes out to the rest of the family dealing with the loss of that young girl. I can’t imagine their pain. Please, folks, take a minute to assess your own household and its relationship with guns before someone else has to deal with another excruciating loss.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com


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