An 11 year old boy from Garden Hill First Nation community in Manitoba was shot and killed when several children were playing with a gun they found.
RCMP say that two 11 year old and a 12 year old were playing in a home when they found the firearm. "During the handing of this firearm by the 12 year old, it discharged and struck the 11 year old victim" RCMP said in a press release Thursday. RCMP say that the 12 year old boy has been charged with criminal negligence and careless use of a firearm. His father is facing a charge of careless storage of a firearm.
It should go without saying that this is a tragedy that should have been avoided, and our hearts go out to the grieving families. The question that's now going to be asked, is how could this have been avoided? Before the cries for further restrictions on firearms and gun control inevitably come out over the next few days, let's look at a few facts of the situation.
Garden Hill is a remote First Nation community, one that has had issues with packs of wild dogs in the past and has large predatory animals such as bear and cougar native to the region. The residents of the area must protect themselves as Police, Hospital, and Wildlife control assistance are far away. In the case of predator control there are provisions of the firearms act that allow for firearms storage to be "temporarily unlocked, and out in the open, as long as it is unloaded and not readily accessible to ammunition". While the details of this case aren't known as to if the firearm was loaded, or if the ammunition wasn't readily accessible, it is worthy to note that there could be legitimate and legal reason for the firearm to be accessible without any locking or deactivation device. Either way, without the RCMP either knowing or disclosing the facts of the availability of ammunition, this seems to be yet another case of someone being charged by the RCMP with unsafe storage, and allowing the courts to decide if they're correct, as we've written about here.
The biggest avoidance to firearms tragedy in youth is education. That's right, teaching proper firearms handling, and not to touch or play with firearms without adults present and directly supervising, stops tragedies from happening. Not too long ago, in fact in recent memory for a lot of Canadians, safe firearms handling was taught in school. Some children were allowed to bring their firearms to school, which they used after school to control gopher and rabbit populations. The number of tragedies from those days, and from today, when children are taught safe firearm handling are incredibly low to non-existent.
If anyone is guilty of anything, it's the parents for neglecting to teach safe and responsible firearms handling. This is now a fact that they have to live with for the rest of their lives, which should be punishment enough. No gun control or firearm regulations could have prevented this tragic chain of events. Our hearts go out to the families effected by this tragedy.