The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 3, 2013

Pediatrician: Children don't fully understand firearm dangers

By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item

NORTHUMBERLAND — The accidental death of a 2-year-old has put gun control back in the national spotlight and raised the issue of how young is too young for children to be handling firearms.

In a horrific accident Tuesday, a 5-year-old Kentucky boy killed his 2-year-old sister with a single shot to the chest using a gun marketed toward children.

According to the (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal, the said Cumberland County, Ky. Coroner Gary White, “described the Cumberland shooting as ‘just one of those crazy accidents’ and said the parents had left the rifle in a corner next to the boy’s BB gun and didn’t realize that it still had a shell in it.”

The rifle - a Crickett - was made by Milton-based Keystone Sporting Arms, which sells guns specifically for children — “My first rifle” is the slogan — in colors ranging from plain brown to hot pink to orange to royal blue to multi-color swirls.

Keystone also makes guns for adults, but most of its products are geared toward children, including books and bright orange vests and hats.

Calls to Keystone Sporting Arms were directed to the company’s attorney, New York-based John Renzulli.

Renzulli said the “media frenzy” surrounding the case has lead to the company receiving threatening messages.

The company will not have any comment until an investigation into the death has been completed, he said.

“We believe the privacy of the family needs to be respected at this time,” he said.

By the afternoon, visitors to crickett.com received an error message, though Keystone’s other websites, available at keystonesportingarmsllc.com, were working properly.

The key to having firearms in a home with children is “safety, safety, safety, safety,” said Ken Mertz, of Washingtonville, a longtime instructor with the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Hunter Education program and a 4-H shotgun leader.

“What we used to impress with the Hunter Education program was ‘TAB’: Treat every gun as if it is loaded; Always keep pointing in a safe direction; Be absolutely certain of your target and what lies beyond your target,” he said.

Parents who want to get their children involved in shooting sports need to be aware of what type of gun they are purchasing and provide appropriate training, Mertz said.

“First off, the parents should be familiar with the firearms,” he said.

In 4-H, the program has an age requirement of 11-years-old, though the leader can use their discretion with children at 10-years-of-age, Mertz said. However, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Mentor Youth program for young hunters does not have an age requirement.

“Some people think parents should make the decision as to when their children are mature enough and able to shoot,” he said. “I myself I’m probably thinking maybe 8 years old (is the minimum for firearms), though I hate to put a number on it.”

Mertz said in his home, he always impressed the seriousness of gun safety on his now-grown daughters.

“We always told them, ‘These things are dangerous, they are deadly. You should not touch them unless we are with you,’” he said.

However, this can be extremely hard to do with young children, said Dr. Pat Bruno, with the Children’s Advocacy Center in Northumberland.

“They’re children and you can’t expect them to know the ramifications of the simple act of pulling a trigger,” he said.

Bruno emphasized the need for gun control legislation which protects children and funding for federal research initiatives to look at the effects of guns and gun violence.

“We need to apply science to gun safety,” he said.