Boy, 11, Charged With Murder For Shooting 8-Year-Old Neighbor

Photo: Jim Weber/AP Photo.
An 11-year-old Tennessee boy has been accused of murdering his 8-year-old neighbor. According to reports, the boy, whose name has not been released, and MaKayla Dyer were arguing over a pair of puppies they were playing with, when the boy picked up a 12-gauge single-shot shotgun and pulled the trigger. The boy is now being charged with first-degree murder. “She was a precious little girl, she was a mommy’s girl. No matter how bad of a mood you were in, she could always make you smile,” MaKayla's mother, Latasha Dyer, told WATE, a Knoxville news station. “I hope the little boy learned his lesson because he took my baby’s life and I can’t get her back.” The case is an out-and-out tragedy, but coming on the heels of another horrific shooting, it feels like a cautionary tale for our wrongheaded approach to gun control. Those — like our Republican candidates — who support freer access to firearms may argue that this particular 11-year-old was mentally ill. If he was, studies show that he was no more likely to have been violent than his mentally stable peers.

But it seems quite clear that regardless of the boy's mental health or other circumstances, MaKayla would probably still be alive if the 11-year-old hadn't had easy access to a shotgun. Laws restricting child access to guns in Tennessee are alarmingly lax. A minor can hold a firearm if he or she is participating in a shooting competition, is supervised by an adult on private property, or if his or her parent says it is okay. According to research by Everytown, an organization that promotes more restrictive gun laws in the United States, a third of American children live in an environment with a firearm; in 43% of those environments, the firearm is unlocked. And that, many say, is a recipe for bloodshed. "A child is a child. The onus should never be on a child to stay away from guns, or to be safe around a loaded gun," says Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an organization that lobbies for stronger, better gun laws in the United States. "The idea that we're putting a child in charge of their own gun safety is as ridiculous as giving a child keys to the car or to the liquor cabinet. It's our job to protect children," Watts says. Everytown reported that 70% of child shooting deaths could have been prevented if the gun the child used had just been properly stored — locked and unloaded out of his or her reach. "Assume that children will find an unsecured gun — no matter how well you think it’s hidden" is one of the organization's maxims. The bottom line is that research clearly shows that communities that have more guns have more gun deaths.

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