Toddlers don’t kill people, guns kill people

By Kevin Rothbauer

Nice job, America.

On Tues., Feb. 29, a Michigan girl was shot to death by a classmate. While schoolground shootings may be almost commonplace today, usually they take place in high schools, not in elementary schools.

Before putting a bullet into six-year-old Kayla Rolland, the unnamed shooter told her, "I don’t like you." Hardly the words of a cold-blooded murderer. This is not a case of, "guns don’t kill people, people kill people." It was a gun, not a person, that killed Kayla.

The common argument used in defending the innocence of a teenage or pre-teen killer is that at a young age, the ability to form the desire to kill has not developed. This argument sounds foolish when used in defence of a 13-year-old, or even an 11-year-old–but it often works. Michigan, interestingly enough, recently became one of the first states to adopt a law declaring that anyone of any age can be tried as an adult, and an 11-year-old boy was convicted of murder and sent to prison for 10 years as a result. The lack of desire to kill argument does seem appropriate when applied to a six-year-old. Michigan prosecutors used that reason, based on a 107-year-old court decision, when they decided not to press charges against Kayla’s killer.

I can’t remember what I thought about when I was six. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have understood the repercussions of shooting someone. I don’t think I was allowed to watch any violent tv, so I probably didn’t know anything about guns whatsoever. Not too many six-year-olds, I’m guessing, have much of a concept of death at all. The six-year-old in question must have known something about how guns worked, though. He was able to point it at someone he "didn’t like" and pull the trigger. This isn’t really shocking. What is shocking is that he came into possession of a gun at all.

Not much is known about the boy’s family so far. According to the Associated Press, he lived with his mother, a younger sibling and "a man referred to as an uncle." Somewhere, someone let him get a hold of the gun. Whoever that is will probably be charged, hopefully with murder, but more likely with something like criminal negligence causing death. A six-year-old can’t commit murder, but putting a gun in a six-year-old’s hands is very close to committing murder.

I can’t wait to hear what the National Rifle Association has to say about this. So far, they’ve had it rather easy with the school shootings. It’s easy to put blame on Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who carefully planned the Columbine High School massacre and acquired the weapons without their parents’ knowledge. It’s a little more difficult to put the blame on a six-year-old who couldn’t have known what he was doing. For their own sake, the boy’s mother and "uncle" better have a really good reason to have a loaded gun within a kid’s reach.

President Clinton is asking the same questions. He asked on Tuesday, after hearing about the murder, why, if the technology to make child-proof guns is available, isn’t it used? Because, Mr. Clinton, you live in a backward country where Charlton Heston and Karl Malone have more of an impact on the lawmakers than a bullethole in the neck of a six-year-old girl.

This latest shooting presents possibly the best argument for total gun control, in both the us and Canada. Granted, in more "reasonable" Canada these incidents aren’t as likely to happen (Taber being a complete exception, of course). In all honesty, though, the fewer guns made available, the fewer murders are going to happen. If a six-year-old killer who simply thought he was misbehaving doesn’t prove it, what does?