||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
Children Playing with Guns
By: Dale Recinella
We continue to address the pastoral letters on the criminal justice system issued by our Catholic Bishops in the South.
The third letter, “Suffer the Little Children…” Juvenile Justice in the South, deals with the issue of crime and minors. In our last column we touched on the fact that our Catholic Bishops know this subject is a hot-potato. Perhaps the thorniest issue of all the ones referenced in their letter is the problem of guns in the hands of children. Because that is the toughest of the issues to discuss in an election year, that is our point of departure.
In their letter, our Catholic bishops express deep concern over the ease with which children obtain access to handguns. They note that the five states with the highest rate of gun ownership are in the South (Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and West Virginia) and that a major Harvard School of Public Health Study shows that children in those southern states are “16 times more likely to die of unintentional firearm injuries, 7 times as likely to die from firearm suicide, and 3 times more likely to die from firearm homicide” than children in the five states with the lowest level of gun ownership.
The problem is not limited to the South. Gun deaths of children may be more pronounced in Dixie, but it is a national crisis. According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even though gun deaths of children in the U.S. have dropped from their peak of 15 per day in 1994, eight children and teens continue to die every day from gun violence.
The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Report Protect Children, Not Guns 2007 concludes that in the last thirty years, 101,413 children and teens have died at the point of a gun. The CDF calls out attention to the fact that is a higher number than “the total number of American fatalities in all wars since World War II ended including the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.” Those children and teens would fill over 4,000 public school classrooms.
The most recently available statistics (2004) show that gun deaths for children are equal opportunity tragedies. Age does not matter. More preschoolers were killed with guns than law enforcement officers in the line of duty.
Race does not guarantee safety. Sixty percent of the children and teens killed were white and thirty-seven percent were black.
Guns also seem indifferent to self-help or neighbor-sponsored child killing. White children were nine times more likely to kill themselves with a gun, while black children were more likely to be shot by someone else.
And gender does not provide security. The number of female children and teens who died at the business end of a gun increased 19% from 2003 to 2004.
Death is only the tip of the iceberg. For every child and teen killed by a gun there are between four and five who incur less than fatal injuries. The CDF reports that the American Medical Association has pegged the average cost of all those child and teen gunshot victims at $45,000 (without counting rehabilitative and long-term care costs). The life time care costs for one year worth of child and teen gunshot victims is $2.3 billion. At least half of those costs are paid by us as taxpayers.
Can anyone be surprised, given the enormity and pervasiveness of this American crisis, that our Catholic faith demands a moral response? Our Bishops of the South have gone on record. They support controls on the sale and use of guns, as well as required safety features and prohibition of their unsupervised use by children.
First published: The Florida Catholic, March 27, 2008
© 2008 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.
Your name and information will never be used or sha#3333FF with anyone. We promise!
Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed