Give a Kid a Hand

TOM TEEPEN

September 17, 1993|By TOM TEEPEN

These things have happened in the last couple of weeks where Ilive:

A 12-year-old girl was shot by two boys fighting over a gun. A 17-year-old was sentenced to life in prison for killing a 13-year-old honor student in a shootout with another youth. A 15-year-old shot and killed a schoolmate during lunch in the school cafeteria.

So you can see right away what the problem is: There are still children in this country who are unarmed. Incredibly, some children are leaving for school, walking the streets, going on dates without packing heat to defend themselves. Others still have to share guns. It is a scandal.

Oh, the National Rifle Association and the rest of the gun lobby are helping a little. The NRA tried to block local laws in Arizona that require parental consent for children to carry guns and even financed a court challenge. It's not the NRA's fault that the patsy courts caved in to the gun-snatchers.

And the NRA is trying to keep Colorado from enacting the law its governor wants to disarm children 18 and younger unless they're hunting or sport shooting.

But look at these frightening statistics from a recent study:

Only 15 percent of kids in the sixth to 12th grades say they have carried a gun in the last 30 days. That means 85 percent have gone defenseless! Sixty percent say they know how to get a gun quickly, an encouraging number until you realize it also means that nearly half don't, a shock considering that 39 percent of our kids know someone who's been shot.

Many schools are installing metal detectors, and more are banning book bags because so many kids are sneaking guns into class that way.

But criminal children will get their guns in anyway. It is only the law-abiding armed children who suffer from such policies.

Surely, a rich group like the NRA could establish an endowment to buy guns for kids who can't afford them on their own. The kids who survive would be grateful to them for the rest of their lives.

There are no bad guns, only bad children.

And while, yes, the number of 15-year-olds arrested for homicide has tripled since 1985 and the number of 16- and 17-year-olds has more than doubled, the fact that we're imprisoning a lot of our children doesn't mean we've imprisoned enough of our children.

As most people realize, hey, guns don't kill children. Children kill children.

OC Tom Teepen is a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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