Editor’s Note: Sally Kohn is an activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter: @sallykohn. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.
Guns kill or injure 10,000 children every year, yet we regulate toys and cribs far more than guns
Sally Kohn: Most Americans and even gun owners approve of simple measures like background checks
Recently, my CNN colleague Mel Robbins made a startling point. Robbins was on “Legal View” to discuss the case of an 11-year-old who shot and killed an 8-year-old neighbor when host Ashleigh Banfield noted that 10,000 children are killed or injured by guns every year. Robbins was taken aback by the statistic. Then Robbins pointed out that when the government found out that a certain type of crib resulted in 32 children dying over 10 years, what did the government do about the cribs? “Outlawed them,” she said. But 10,000 kids die or get injured because of guns every single year and we can’t pass even the most measly common sense safety laws?
Between 2000 and 2010, there were 32 infant deaths due to so-called “drop side” cribs. And so in 2011, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned drop side cribs altogether. Parents applauded the decision. And the baby furniture trade industry tried to burnish its image not by insisting its products were blameless but by providing kits for people to retrofit their old drop side cribs to make them safe.
And what did the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission say about drop side cribs that caused 32 deaths over 10 years? “These products are deadly.” Which they were. And thankfully, we did something about it.
In 2000, when Ford-Firestone tires were linked to 250 deaths and 3,000 injuries, not only were recalls initiated but Congress enacted tougher laws to strengthen highway safety regulations. In the wake of the Toyota accelerator scandal, which resulted in a settlement of $1.2 billion by the automaker to avoid prosecution for knowingly putting faulty cars on the market, legislation to further regulate auto safety stalled. But in the case of the Toyota accelerators, 89 people died over 10 years.
In 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled almost 1 million Easy-Bake Ovens because children’s fingers were being caught in the opening of the toy and in some cases, children were being burned. Then the agency recalled another 1 million of the toy ovens after a little girl suffered a burn that resulted in her finger being amputated. No children were killed by Easy-Bake Ovens.
Also in 2007, the government ordered the recall of 1.5 million Thomas & Friends wooden train toys made by RC2 Corp. and manufactured in China. The toys were found to contain excessive levels of lead in their paint. No one died because of the toy trains. In fact, in its recall announcement, the Consumer Product Safety Commission noted, “There have been no reports of illness or injury as a result of this issue.”
But wait, you might be thinking the analogy to guns isn’t accurate. After all, gun deaths are caused by people, right? Not defective products. But about once per month, a child is killed by the cords on window blinds. Arguably, window cord blinds aren’t inherently deadly. And arguably, parents are to blame for not watching their kids more closely or putting the blind cords where children can’t reach them. But an average of 12 deaths per year from innocuous window blinds is still enough to spur government to action. Last year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously to begin a rule-making process that will likely lead to mandatory safety standards for window shade manufacturers.
For sure, there’s no Second Amendment right to Easy-Bake Ovens. But the Second Amendment doesn’t mean we have to hand out guns like candy without reasonable safety precautions and regulations.
Even conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says, regarding guns and the Second Amendment, “There are some limitations that can be imposed.” And simple measures like requiring universal background checks and restricting semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines are supported not only by a majority of Americans but a majority of gun owners.
We take far greater precautions to protect handfuls of children from toys and window cords and cribs. Shouldn’t we take even the most modest, common sense steps to protect children — and all of us — from deadly guns?
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this opinion essay misstated the number of children killed every year by guns. 10,000 children are killed or injured by guns every year, according to American Academy of Pediatrics.