Cumberland County, Kentucky, Shooting May Show Gun Culture 'Natural Consequence'

05/02/2013 06:15 pm ET
AP

This past Tuesday, in Cumberland County, Ky., a 2-year-old girl was killed when her 5-year-old brother accidentally shot her with a .22-caliber rifle in their home. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, the gun "was a gift the boy received last year." As Cumberland County Coroner Gary White told reporters:

"It's a Crickett," he said. "It's a little rifle for a kid. ...The little boy's used to shooting the little gun."

White said the gun was kept in a corner, and the family did not realize a bullet had been left in it. The shooting will be ruled accidental, he said.

"Just one of those crazy accidents," White said.

Yes, just one of those crazy accidents that involve what child development experts call "natural consequences," specifically the "natural consequences" of leaving an unattended, loaded weapon in the corner of the room near two very young children. The news today is that this shooting death "might lead to criminal charges." Per NPR:

The Lexington Herald-Leader writes that "Kentucky State Police said Wednesday it is too early to say whether charges will be filed in the case of a 5-year-old boy who accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old sister."

That was a shift from earlier in the day, when a spokesman for the state police had said it was unlikely any charges would be filed.

"There is still some information that we don't fully understand," Trooper Billy Gregory later said, according to the newspaper. "As the investigation continues and when we finish, I'm sure we'll present the totality of the circumstances to the commonwealth's attorney and then he'll make a decision whether or not to present to the grand jury."

Just what type of charges might be filed is not known at this time.

If you are curious as to how a gun marketed to small children came to exist, Mark Follman at Mother Jones has the details:

The Pennsylvania-based maker of Crickett rifles, Keystone Sporting Arms, markets its guns with the slogan "My First Rifle." They are available with different barrel and stock designs, including some made in hot pink to appeal to young girls.

Business has boomed since the company's inception in 1996, according to its website. In its first year, it had four employees and produced 4,000 rifles for kids; by 2008 it had greatly expanded its operations, with 70 employees and an output of 60,000 rifles a year. KSA's site states that its goal is "to instill gun safety in the minds of youth shooters and encourage them to gain the knowledge and respect that hunting and shooting activities require and deserve."

"Clearly the issue of parental responsibility is at the center of this tragedy," writes Follman, "But ... it also points back to the big business of guns -- including how the industry profits from products aimed at children."

Obviously, this tragedy comes amid the ongoing debate over whether some sort of gun safety legislation should, or can, be passed into law. Arguably, the much-talked about Manchin-Toomey background check measure would not be the sort of regulation that could have prevented this tragedy. (Maybe something in a "do not market or sell deadly weapons to small children" is what we're looking for?)

If you're interested in a further discussion of this tragedy, and whether child deaths like this are the consequence of a prevailing "gun culture" will be a highlight of tonight's "All In With Chris Hayes," at 8 p.m. on MSNBC.

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