That’s not my headline. It was in the New York Times earlier this month, in the section where the paper provides short blurbs about what is happening around the country.
My youngest daughter is in kindergarten. Here is a list of some of the things that she either cannot do or is not allowed to do: cross a busy street by herself; pour milk from a full gallon jug; ride in a car without a booster seat; and tie her shoes (I know . . . she’s working on that one). She is, however, a highly capable kid. So it might be fairer to her if I listed some of what she can do: get herself ready for school; ride her bike around the block; make her bed; use a variety of electronic devices that begin with an “i”.
But regardless of whether the list is of “cannots” or “cans,” it does not square with this statement from the county coroner in Kentucky:
Mr. White said that the .22-caliber rifle had been kept in a corner and that the family had not realized a bullet was left inside it. “It’s a Crickett,” Mr. White said, referring to a company that makes guns, clothes and books for children. “It’s a little rifle for a kid,” he said, adding, “The little boy’s used to shooting the little gun.”
I grew up in a small Wisconsin town. At my high school, so many teachers and students were absent on the first day of deer season that school might as well have been cancelled. Today some of my close relatives keep hunting rifles in their closets. So while I absolutely do not want to suggest that I know anything about the family that suffered this terrible tragedy, I am familiar with the kind of culture in which a .22-caliber rifle is put in a corner.
Which is not to say that I wasn’t jarred by the phrase “a company that makes guns, clothes and books for children.” Or that I expected, when I visited Crickett’s website, to see child-sized guns in bright blue and pink. And watch out Joe Camel, because Crickett’s mascot is a jolly green frog sporting a rifle, boots, and a hunting cap.
Footbinding, smoking, drunk driving—these are all legend among law and norms scholars. But with few exceptions, almost no one talks about trying to change gun culture through the sort of small, incremental changes that have made such a difference elsewhere. Certainly it is daunting to even think about how to spark change. And it’s also true that those whose ideas would make a difference would only receive posthumous gratification, because change might not actually be realized until my kindergartener has great-grandchildren.
But Boy, 5, Kills Sister, 2.