Libertarian Commentary #16-18A by Nathan Barton
How do we respond to tragedy? The WaPo recently reported on two very untimely and unfortunate deaths. The first was in Florida, but involved a Michigan family, as the WaPo reported. Preparing to hold a memorial service for the patriarch of the family, a six year old girl was pulled out to sea: her father responded and saved her but died himself in the riptide. The other occurred in Philadelphia, in one of the worse neighborhoods in that evil-ridden city. A four-year-old girl was accidentally shot in her face and killed by her father as he was cleaning his pistol, according to the WaPo.
Both are horrible tragedies. Two families have been torn apart. There are many similarities. But it is interesting noting the reaction of the WaPo and others to these tragedies. There is no question here of evil intentions (well, maybe, according to some): the daughter did not set out to kill or cause her father to die. The father clearly did not set out to shoot and kill his daughter. There are other similarities.
First, BOTH fathers and BOTH children were not properly trained and failed to take simple, basic precautions that could have prevented the deaths. In the case of the Florida drowning, why did the father (and other relatives) allow the little girl to go out into the water alone? Surely he must have recognized the danger. Did they really need to be right on the water’s edge for this memorial service? In the Pennsylvania case, the father violated a cardinal rule of good gun handling, probably due to a lack of training. He pointed the gun at someone he clearly did NOT intend to kill, he failed to unload his weapon properly, and he failed to teach his 4-year-old. Even at age 4, children are old enough to be taught NOT to face directly into the muzzle of a firearm. The daughter (and her family) in Florida will live with the horror for the rest of her life: her father died to save her when she did something stupid. The man in Philadelphia will also live with the horror that he shot and killed his own precious daughter because he did something stupid. He far more would have been willing to die for her.
But the WaPo and the neighbors and relatives treat these totally differently. The death of the girl in the north is “due” to the man having the gun in the first place, and to fearing the situation in a very bad neighborhood instead of trusting in the cops. His act is evil, so he must be punished for murder, manslaughter, and “child endangerment,” the last apparently just for having the gun in her presence, or in the house. The WaPo moans (as usual) over the number of accidental gun-deaths in the nation (591 last year, with 102 age 18 and under and 74 age 15 and under. The message is clear. It is NOT a call for more training and practice and caution, but the usual “guns are evil and must be banned.”
There are, apparently, no charges pending (nor calls for such) for either the surviving parent (child endangerment) or for the daughter (even as a juvenile) in the drowning, no appeals for new laws banning children from being within a quarter-mile or 100 yards or 50 feet or anything from a tidal zone or a beach. No calls for more training or training at all before allowing families on a beach. No calls for requiring registration and mandatory training for all owners of hot tubs and backyard swimming pools (especially those “Saturday-daytime specials you can buy from K-Mart that are 12 inches deep and six feet across). No pithy quotes about “Well, if the father had been properly trained in swimming and rescue…” No recitation of deadly statistics about how many people drowned last year. [Yet the CDC – assuming we can trust them – reports that average accidental, non-boating drowning deaths in the US amount to 3533 per year: about SIX times the number of accidental deaths involving guns. And 1 in 5 of those are children age 14 and younger: 700 or so per year.] But pools and hot tubs and swimming beaches are not evil. A bathing suit or floating device is not the devil’s handiwork, leading children to go and do things that will cause them to get killed. There are no “Mothers Against Backyard Pools.”
Because, of course, people are stupid enough to believe that government can control and prevent ownership and accidents with guns, but apparently do NOT believe that government can block off beaches and close pools and take hot tubs away. And politicians are power-mad enough to take advantage of this stupidity.
Lessons Learned? Think. Prepare. Take appropriate training. Remember that you can’t go back in time. Don’t trust others to do what you have to do yourself. And don’t expect logic, reason, nor truth from politics and government.
Enough is enough.