Toddlers and guns: you’ve very likely already read one too many reports about a small child finding a gun and killing someone or even her or himself. There have been way, way too many such stories lately, each one more a glaring reminder about the United State’s failed efforts to reform gun control laws.
On Sunday, 3-year-old Damon C. Holbrook found a .40-caliber handgun loaded with 15 rounds in an unlocked case in a bedroom closet in the Dundee, Michigan house where he lived with his father and two siblings and another family. While the adults in the house were talking in the kitchen, Damon was playing by himself in a first-floor bedroom when he found the gun and accidentally shot himself in the head and died. He was rushed to a hospital in Ann Arbor and died just about an hour later.
The gun’s 30-year-old owner, Joshua Greenhill, was one of the adults in the house; he was arrested and jailed. On Tuesday, he was charged with careless discharge of a firearm causing injury or death, a high misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison. The Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office had at first been considering a charge of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Along with his wife and young son, Greenhill was also a resident of Dundee house where Damon and his family lived. Besides facing criminal charges, Greenhill has been ordered to surrender his Common Public License and not to possess any firearms. Two long guns were also confiscated from the house.
As Slate points out, “the speed with which the family friend was arrested is worth noting and applauding as an example of how authorities ought to handle cases like these.” Too often, police have termed such a shooting an “accident” or even a “no-fault accident” and — in contrast to the arrest of Greenhill soon after Damon’s death — only brought charges “later, if at all.”
As Damon’s father wrote on his Facebook page, “Gun safety people! My boy would still be here if it was put away like it should have been.”
Nothing can bring back Damon. But the arrest and criminal charges that Greenhill faces can, it is hoped, be a deterrent to other gun owners. Even more, Damon’s death and that of too many other young children are further reason for lawmakers to (finally) undertake a serious reform of gun policy including rules for background checks. You’d think they’d also be getting weary of reading stories about toddlers and guns by now.
Photo from Thinkstock