A Dec. 10 tragedy in which a Salt Lake mother was accidentally shot in the head and critically wounded by her 6-year-old daughter brings home two important messages about children and guns, a University of Utah psychologist says.
All children should be taught about the dangers of guns, said Charles W. Turner, associate professor of psychology. "Don't assume because you don't have a gun your child won't be exposed." Many children, like the 6-year-old, play with a gun at someone else's house.Turner suggests parents tell their children several things concerning guns:
-Not all guns are toys. Even if you think a gun you see at someone else's house is a toy, do not play with it until you get permission from an adult.
-If you see a gun at somebody's house, don't touch it. Tell an adult.
- Never point a gun at anyone.
- Any gun you see may be loaded.
From 200 to 300 children under 12 are killed each year in the United States in shooting accidents. About 2,000 are injured, Turner said. And statistics show there were 10 accidental shooting deaths in Utah in 1987 - three involving children under 15. In the past five years, there have been 39 Utah deaths and about a dozen of the victims were under 15.
"When you bring a gun into the house, the chances you or your children will be killed or injured increase enormously," he said.
The fallacy is that it is very unlikely the gun will be used against the unknown stranger, the robber, or rapist, Turner said. Between 90 and 95 percent of homicide, suicide and accidental shooting victims are gun owners.
Turner said the second message from such tragedies is that the public should demand that manufacturers put locks, catches and safety devices on guns that must be released before the gun will fire.