Before his arrest, John Allen Muhammad, the suspected sniper who allegedly terrorized Maryland’s Montgomery County, issued this warning: “Your children are not safe.”
While this brazen statement was immediately perceived as a threat on the lives of the area’s youth (as it very well should have been), one can’t help but ponder the deeper roots of these words.
The sniper may very well have been issuing a direct threat to the community’s children.
However, this warning also reflects the situation in homes across the country, far from the sights of the sniper’s rifle.
Studies show that everyday in America nine children are killed by guns.
Every year, more than 20,000 children and youths are killed or injured by firearms.
Even more staggering is the fact that guns will kill 1 in 1,000 before the age of 20.
Last year in Philadelphia alone, 103 youths were killed or murdered, and 90 percent of the fatalities were due to firearms.
These statistics do not come about via sniper fire.
These are children killing children, accidents in the home, and homicides on the streets.
It is highly doubtful that a cold-blooded murderer would be handing out a warning aimed at protection.
But when a man has a gun, the proven will to use it, and makes a statement such as, “Your children are not safe,” a situation arises that needs our utmost attention.
Following the sniper’s remarks, parents literally barricaded their children indoors, to keep them safe within the confines of their homes. But just how safe were they?
We cannot cast aside the teenager next door who just got his hands on a semi-automatic, or the two boys who just found daddy’s handgun in a shoebox under the bed.
It happens everyday.
Children get hold of guns, and nothing good ever comes of it.
People have a right to feel safe.
People have the right to protect themselves and their families.
But we can at least take precautions.
Keep guns out of the house.
If this is unacceptable, keep them unloaded and locked away at all times, out of the reach of children.
In the United States, firearm deaths among children are almost 12 times higher than that of 25 other industrialized nations – combined.
Until people start realizing that part of protecting their children means keeping guns out of their reach, the sniper will always have a point: “Your children are not safe.”
Tim Wiseley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org