Bill Wineke

My first rifle: Kid's first kill

To all of you gun enthusiasts who write me to tell me that I know nothing about firearms: I concede defeat.

Never in my wildest, most paranoid of imaginary scenarios have I concocted a situation where a 5-year-old little boy might shoot and kill his 2-year-old sister using his own rifle.

Yet, that's what just happened in Cumberland County, Ky.

Just to recap the story:  The little boy received the rifle, a "Crickett" advertised as "My First Rifle," as a gift.  He, apparently, was experienced in shooting the weapon, but didn't know it was loaded when he pointed it at his sister and squeezed the trigger.  The little girl died.

This is, unfortunately, a fairly routine experience.  Kids like guns.  I remember playing with my grandfather's revolver when I was a child.  When no gun, real or toy, was available, my brothers and I would use corn cob "guns" to play cops and robbers.  Every once in a while, a child plays with a real, loaded, weapon and tragedy results.

What I didn't know is that people make guns specifically designed for tots.

Keystone Sporting, a Pennsylvania company, sells them under the names "Crickett" and "Chipmunk." The Cricketts are described as a smaller weapon, designed for children, and come with a shoulder stock in childish colors including pink and swirls.  It shoots a .22 caliber bullet.  You can give it to a 5-year-old.

The mind boggles.

I don't even know what to say about a thing like that.  People give lethal weapons to 5-year-old children?


I mean, I get the basic idea.  If you are a hunter, you want to instill a culture of safety and gun respect in your kid before that kid turns into a careless teenager.  Perhaps you learned to hunt from your own father or grandfather and you want to share that with your son or daughter.

I understand that.  It is part of the American tradition.

But is there no place left for common sense?  Does anyone seriously think a 5-year-old ought to have his own rifle?

Apparently, that is not a rhetorical question.  There is a company – I believe it employs about 70 workers – that stays in business by manufacturing rifles and scopes for children.

Cumberland County Coroner Gary White said "nobody wants to take anyone's guns away but you've got to keep them out of harm's way from kids.  It's a safety issue."

Well, yes it is.  And, honestly Coroner White, don't you think someone might want to take guns away from 5-year-old little boys?

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