There can't possibly be a sadder story than the one from Nerstrand, Minn., where a 6-year-old girl shot and killed her 3-year-old brother while she played with a .357 Magnum that had been left unlocked in a bedroom nightstand.
Strong anger mixes with intense sadness with these stories. Leaving a gun unlocked with little kids around is stupid. If you're law enforcement, what constitutes proper punishment when your 3 year old is dead because of something you did (or didn't do)? But worst of all: How do you grow up with the guilt of knowing that when you were 6 years old, you shot and killed your baby brother?
There's an example to be made here, but would it do any good? According to the National Centers for Disease Control, nearly 1.7 million kids live in homes with unlocked guns. And people aren't getting the message, a cursory glance at the news today shows.
In North Carolina, the situation is so severe that Duke University is now asking parents whether they need a gun lock when they bring their kids in for regular physicals.
Several studies, including one in 1996, have shown that merely teaching kids not to play with guns doesn't work, even though parents who own guns often think it suffices, the study showed.
Fifty-two percent of the non-gun-owning parents believed their child could discriminate between a toy gun and a real gun, and 72% of the gun owning parents believed their child could tell a toy gun from a real gun. Fourteen percent of non-gun-owning parents, 23% of gun owning parents, and 35% of gun owning parents with unsafe storage practices trusted their child with a loaded gun. Ten percent of the non-gun-owning parents and 14% of the gun owning parents trusted their child as young as 4 to 7 years of age with a loaded gun, although trust did increase for both groups as age increased. Both groups of parents consistently trusted their own child more than another child with a loaded gun. Eighty-seven percent of the gun owning parents believed that their child would not touch a real gun and these same parents were more likely to store a loaded gun unlocked in their home. This study and others have established that parents have unrealistic views of children's safety around guns, falsely believing their children capable of gun control (Coyne-Beasley, Schoenbach, & Johnson, 2001; Hardy, 2002; Jack man, Farah, Kellerman, & Simon, 2001). Those knowledgeable about both child development and injury prevention refute the trust displayed by the parents in this study on the basis of normal child development and natural curiosity (Farah et al., 1999; Stennies et al., 1999). Developmental theory has provided health care professionals with the knowledge that children will explore their environment. Despite parents' perceptions, children can and do play with real guns regardless of being instructed not to.
But the situation can't be discussed without the cloud of politics. In the debate over the D.C. handgun law, the issue of trigger locks was hotly involved. Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rep. John Kiine, for example, co-sponsored a bill to repeal the element of the D.C. ban that required trigger locks. Opponents say mandatory trigger lock legislation will do little to curb violence because responsible gun owners already use them, and store their guns safely. They also say a gun that cannot be quickly used, loses its effectiveness as a means of self-defense.
Proponents? They point to dead 3-year-olds.
Is there any sort of answer here on which everyone can agree?(6 Comments)
Posted at 10:05 AM on August 6, 2008
by Bob Collins
The Republican National Convention people have released the latest weekly time-lapse video of the transformation of the Xcel Energy Center into the RNC convention palace.
The thing is: It doesn't look like all that much has changed. Such is the joy of removing one seat at a time. Work seems to be concentrated on the main stage.
Outside the Xcel Center, however, fences have gone up on some of the parking lots that the Republicans have taken over. They'll mostly house temporary trailers that serve as offices and production facilities for the big-media companies.
Meanwhile, out in Denver, officials started taking reservations this week for a public tour of the Pepsi Center on the Friday before the convention opens. The reservation list filled up in one day, the Denver Post reports.
The Democrats have also provided a YouTube update on the construction process.
MPR is sending a ton of people to Denver (and of course to St. Paul). News Cut will provide some behind-the-scenes slideshows from both. And as befits the nature of this space, I have no idea what stories I'll find at each convention, but they'll likely be from off the beaten path.
We've gotten a lot of praise over the years for the MPR Select A Candidate quiz that's intended to get people to know, at least, the names of the people running for office. In Chicago, the same idea is behind a novel way to introduce people to news anchors at WBBM in Chicago -- the "Which anchor are you?" quiz.
Some of the answers are pretty lame. For example, under the question "Who do you most admire?" the answers are "My mother, my grandmother, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Theresa." Fathers? That's so Public Radio, I guess. (Like Select A Candidate, the options are only as good as the answers given by the candidates, err, anchors)
Apparently I'm most like Rob Johnson, whoever the heck he is. But he's got nice hair and good teeth, so that's encouraging. It's a pity he doesn't think much of old Dad.
How long do you think it'll be before WCCO picks up this idea?
Update: There's a flaw in this. It would appear it's predetermined what anchor you're matched with. There may, in fact, be no relevancy in your answers at all. Too bad. With the SAC quiz program, I could set something like this up for MPR's hosts in a couple of minutes. Hmmm....(11 Comments)
Seeing Barack Obama backtrack on the issue of drilling for oil off the coasts has reignited a simmering debate -- when is a politician a "flip-flopper" and when is he/she merely responding to improved intelligence? A few years ago, when I was writing Polinaut, I challenged legislators to describe the last time they had their mind changed by a conversation with a constituent? None did.
If there's one label that's been known to stick to a politician -- flip-flopper is it.
Now, the St. Petersburg Times has today introduced the Flip-O-Meter:
Barack Obama was accused of flip-flopping on public financing, warrantless wiretaps and offshore drilling. John McCain supposedly flip-flopped on drilling and the Bush tax cuts. During the primary campaign, flipping charges were leveled against Hillary Clinton (torture policy), Bill Richardson (Iraq) and Mitt Romney (abortion).
We checked those accusations at the time and rated them on our trusty Truth-O-Meter. But after checking so many flip-flop allegations, especially lately, we realized they have become a major part of the campaign discourse. We decided that PolitiFact needed a new device to tell readers when a candidate had truly flipped.
The Flip-O-Meter was born.
Candidates are rated from "full-flop" to "half-flip." Find it here.
Tangent Time: "Flip-flop explored" (Grammar Grater)(5 Comments)
Minnesota is falling further behind in the No Child Left Behind-motivated ranking of schools making annual yearly progress, according to a story by MPR's Tim Nelson today. In many ways, anecdotal evidence suggests, we've almost stopped being alarmed by the steady drumbeat of bad education news. If you listen to enough politicians -- and talk shows -- you'd swear our kids are stupid, and our teachers are relatively incompetent, and there's not a heck of a lot we can do about it.
I'll see your anecdotal evidence, and raise you one week in Minneapolis where kids have actually chosen to spend the gorgeous weather inside three schools, learning algebra concepts, from teachers who have taken a pay cut to teach them.
The week is being coordinated by Elizabeth Bortke, who's been working on this week's program -- called B.A.S.E. (Believe, Achieve, Support, Educate) camp -- since last March. She talked to more than 4,500 students earlier this year, to convince them that algebra can be interesting, and relevant, and that a week indoors can prepare them for whatever they want to achieve in life. Four-hundred-forty-one kids took her up on the offer. She also recruited 44 teachers.
The state is pushing down the curriculum for math. Kids will have to learn it sooner. "Instead of having algebra taken in high school, now, our 5th graders from last year will be the first class to have to take algebra in the 8th grade," according to Bortke.
Bortke looked for a program that would teach algebra differently "instead of the 2x + 4 = 6 approach." The kids first learn concepts through a visual manner -- they were playing games involving numbers on dice when I was at the Field School this afternoon. Then they learn the formula behind the game, which is -- if you're like me -- the kind of scrawling that gave you bad dreams at night well into your adult years. We had to learn the formula and then try to figure out what that had to do with "real things." These kids see "real things" and then see the formula. (Listen)
"I'm learning a lot," one teacher told me. "I have a classroom of girls and it's interesting to see the difference from a classroom where you have both genders. Girls have their work and they seem to be a little bit quieter and they get down to business. When I've had mixed genders, the girls don't get that opportunity because the classroom tends to be louder with both the boys and the girls together."
More girls than boys are attending this week's sessions.
"I don't think the District is thinking this week is going to change things dramatically, but it's our first baby step in helping our kids improve and arming them with the tools
they need to be successful," Bortke told me. The Minneapolis Public Schools will track the students who attend this week's B.A.S.E. camp over their school years to see how well -- and if -- this approach works.
The kids seem to get it. One 8th-grader-to-be called her cousin to tell her, "you have to be here, it'll give you a step up." While I visited today, the cousin showed up, smiling, introduced herself to Bortke and nearly ran with her to the classroom.
Kids today, eh?(3 Comments)