Too often, reporters find themselves covering the same sad, senseless story. While the location and people change, many of the details are strikingly similar.
Here's the gist: A young child somehow gets his or her hands on a loaded gun when an adult isn't paying proper attention. The child accidentally discharges the weapon. Someone, usually a family member and often a sibling, is injured or worse, killed.
That's what happened on Friday evening, when police say a 6-year-old shot her 8-year-old sister in the neck with a rifle while the family was cleaning their home in Flora Vista.
That family was lucky. Often, these stories end with an obituary in the newspaper. In this case, the 8-year-old was in stable condition earlier this week, and we hope she makes a full recovery. At this point, the father hasn't been charged with anything, and the San Juan County Sheriff's Office has referred the case to the San Juan County District Attorney's Office. A decision is expected next week.
While we fully support citizens' Second Amendment rights, those rights come with responsibilities. And now might be a good time to review the basics, which include gun safes and trigger locks.
Check out the safety tips offered by Project ChildSafe, a program of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The foundation is the trade group for the firearms and ammunition industry. All of the project's tips, which are available at projectchildsafe.org, are based on common sense. Point the muzzle in a safe direction. Don't touch the trigger until you plan to fire. When it's not being used, unload the firearm and store it in a locked vault or safe. Keep the ammo in a separate locked location. Invest in a gun-locking device for extra safety.
There's even a pledge on the website that parents can have their children sign to vow they won't touch an unattended firearm without express permission from an adult.
Most topics that even touch on gun rights — or limiting them — ignite emotional responses. But this isn't an issue of gun ownership. It's an issue of safety. In nearly every one of these tragic cases, there's a common thread: somewhere along the line an adult messed up — by not properly storing a gun, by leaving it where a small child can reach it loaded with the safety off.
We can't imagined the guilt and pain the father of the two young girls involved in Friday's accident feels right now. Of course, he never wanted this to happen, and our thoughts are with the family as they recover — physically and emotionally.
But this incident can do some good. Let's use this situation to educate children about gun safety. Let's use this to spark a conversation about safe gun ownership. Let's take responsibility for keeping children in our community safe.
We'd be happy to never have to report another one of these stories.