An 11-year-old Amish boy was shot and killed Wednesday afternoon by his sibling in the Adams County, Indiana community.
Details are vague at this time, but sources are describing it as “accidental“, and I’d assume that to be the case.
Images by wpta21.com
This is just one of numerous shootings involving Amish children and youth over the past decade, many of them having tragic endings.
I don’t know exactly how many there have been.
But I was able to find quite a few incidents online with a bit of simple searching:
Accidental Shootings Involving Amish Children Since 2010
2010: Amish boy dies after raccoon hunting accident in Delaware Township (Mercer County, PA)
2011: Amish man accidentally kills 15-year-old Amish girl after firing gun into air (Holmes County, OH)
2012: Amish Boy Accidentally Shoots Brother In Indiana Co. (BB Gun) (Indiana County, PA)
2013: 8-year-old Amish boy shot in chest while brothers played with gun (Cattaraugus County, NY)
2014: Amish child accidentally shot and killed in Ligonier (Noble County, IN)
2015: 9-year-old Amish girl accidentally shot with shotgun (Mercer County, PA)
Pa. Amish man, 21, shot dead by cousin, 12 (Indiana County, PA)
Amish boy accidentally shot by brother, says ACSO (Ashland County, OH)
2016: Two boys involved in accidental shooting, victim taken to Vanderbilt (Lawrenceburg, TN)
2017: Amish Teen Flown to Children’s Hospital After Accidental Shooting (Punxsutawney, PA)
2018: 2-year-old accidentally shot, killed by sibling at Amish residence (Barren County, KY)
These incidents are mostly cases of the victim’s often minor-age siblings handling guns, in some cases clearly carelessly.
I describe these as “child shootings” in the post title – my meaning it that a child was involved in all cases, usually both as shooter and victim.
All of the victims here, except the 21-year-old in Indiana County, PA, were minors. And in nearly every case, the shooters were minors.
Guns & The Amish
Guns are important to the Amish both for practical purposes, and for recreation.
Amish homes often have guns, particularly farm homes (shotguns, for example, may be used to kill pests; one of the above victims was killed as his brother was firing at moles). Additionally, many Amish are avid hunters.
The gun involved in the death of the boy in Adams County is described as a “long gun”, not a handgun.
Rifles and shotguns will be much more common among the Amish. I have not heard of many, or really any, Amish owning handguns.
Are these shootings above the “norm” as far as accidental shootings for comparable non-Amish populations?
I do not have the data and do not know the answer to that. However, this list does raise some questions. Such as:
- How does this compare to the rate of accidental shootings among non-Amish?
- Do Amish gun owners adhere to safety measures as far as storing their weapons in the proper way, and instructing their children on gun safety?
- Are some communities more lax on gun safety than others?
I once wrote a blog post entitled “Is Amish Life More Dangerous?”
I would conclude that it is physically more dangerous for children than a comparable non-Amish suburban life (that leaves beside the question of which lifestyle is more spiritually or morally “dangerous”).
Farm dangers, horses, buggy travel, other forms of transport such as walking on the roadside, the sheer number of young children who need to be watched, and other dangers common to rural life all contribute to this.
The question would be if some of those dangers couldn’t be eliminated – for instance, with greater emphasis on gun safety in some Amish homes and communities?
You might also like:
What a tragedy… Our hearts and prayers go out to the family! I have never liked guns and though we keep a rifle, it can go years at a time without seeing any use. Guns and children do NOT mix, to my way of thinking.
Yoder do you have a sense of how much emphasis on safety there is in Amish homes with guns? And how accessible they are? The image of the handy shotgun by the door comes to mind, ready to go if a mole or other pest is spotted on the farm. I’m trying to think of specific cases but I don’t think I’m imagining that I’ve seen guns that accessible in Amish homes before. I’ve also seen the gun cabinets storing rifles, but that’s usually hunters.
Erik, I don’t recall ever seeing guns kept out in the open in anyone’s home that I know personally, but I could have overlooked it or am just not remembering it right now. It could easily be there are people who keep one “handy” for pests. I know there can be a big difference from family to family in just how guns are viewed. I feel it’s safe to say there is more awareness of gun safety than say 30 years ago, but changes to hunters’ safety courses and gun laws probably have more to do with that than anything else.
Gotcha, yes I can’t say it’s something I’ve noticed often, but I have a nagging memory or two of something like that catching my eye. Maybe it was a powerful-looking BB gun…in any case after this tragic shooting in Adams County it occurred to me that I’d read versions of this same story before more than once…so I wasn’t surprised when a Google search brought up what seems like a lot of examples.
praying for the family
Erik, at the 2019 Anabaptist Identity Conference held in Shipshewana (2020 conference to be held in Holmes County, dates and location TBA) there was an entire lecture devoted to the topic of gun safety and hunting culture. The gun safety portion was mostly stuff you’d find in any firearms training or hunters’ education class. The speaker, a former serviceman (Air Force) who had converted with his wife and children and are part of a conservative Mennonite group at this time, but once had ties to Allen County Christian Fellowship, where I met them many years ago, spoke about the hunting culture and how going overboard can damage conscientious objector status as well as being more selective in what firearms Anabaptists ought to own in order to remain consistent with non-resistance. Mainly, he suggested forgoing anything that was militaristic in appearance and style. For gun safety and keeping hunting culture consistent with Anabaptist values to have been addressed at the conference, I would guess that it’s a widespread enough issue to raise concern.
That sounds like an excellent topic!
Thanks for sharing that Nicholas, interesting. I’m curious to attend that conference, I have not been to one yet. I just was able to find recordings of past conferences and I believe the one you refer to is #17 in the 2019 set, by Vince Ste. Marie. Nice that they’re available online:
Swiss Amish Salem Indiana Washington County
There are swish Amish in southern Indiana Washington county they were related to the boy they got shot in Adams County they have four schools it is growing very large I have been a driver for them for the past 20 years very nice sweet people. Most of them around here are Schwartz ,Schmidt Giord . They have their own businesses on their properties there is a lot of stores no restaurants but they make baked goods and sell them out of their homes they will have vegetable stands and the children will sell them alongside of the road in front of their home they have no telephones no electric and does not talk business on Sundays or they do not visit people that’s outside the community on a Sunday. They do deal in a lot of dog breeding woodworking they build furniture concrete and horse training the women so and run the stores they stay open they open around probably about 8 o’clock in the morning and they stay open until the sun goes down because no electric in their buildings. The children will walk at least 8 to 9 miles to school and less I have a driver and then the school pays for the driver. You should check them out they also do not have tops on their buggies none whatsoever if there’s wind rain did you use umbrellas
12 (known) accidents over 9 years. And while I didn’t look up all the referenced links, it seems that not all of those 12 were fatal. While I hurt for the hurt and loss of each of those accidents (including family and friends of the victims), I have to point out that less-than-twelve over a 9 year period is still a very small number (per year/per capita). How many more are hurt/lost accidents that happen while riding in a buggy? I dare think it’s a times more in a single year than these listed shootings total in nearly a decade. Yet we (outsiders, I might add) don’t advocate for limited buggy trips. How many injuries and possible deaths have come from falling off of wagons on the way to the hay meadow (when they could have walked), or even from just brotherly scuffling around the barn? Yet we don’t advocate for limiting access to the wagon or the barn.
You know, time comes when we have to realize a couple of things — things it seems we could learn from the Amish. For one, bad things just sometimes happens. And sometimes that even includes death. We could cocoon up in our homes and never go outside and take a chance at all the bad stuff out there (ignoring for the moment that accidents even happen inside the home); we could wrap our kids up in bubble wrap against any possible ouchie that might find them — or… we can accept that accidents do happen and get out there and live more of a life until those accidents catch up with us than others do in all the additional years they experience in “safe” mode. While they added years to their life they did it at the expense of sucking life out of their years.
Second, it is *their* lives, not ours — and IMO it is none of my business to tell them the level of minor risk that they should or should not live by. Something like one fatality per year among all the Amish (at least in the news) — and we’re having this discussion? Do each of us *really* want someone else scrutinizing all of our minor risks and being our un-invited self-appointed safety officers, as armchair judges telling us what levels of risk we should or shouldn’t take? Do we find Amish judging us about our risks in riding a motorcycle and all the possible risks that come with it? How many people are killed in car accidents in a decade (more than 12, I’m sure) — yet the Amish aren’t judging us at our level of risk-taking in that. Do any of us want someone out there somewhere being critical of everything we do, suggesting that we place restrictions on anything that costs as much as a single life over a given year’s time? I don’t. And if I don’t want it, it seems I shouldn’t be doing it to others.
And let me add yet a third thing I think we could learn from the Amish on this: Live life (reasonably-, but not necessarily over-safe), and leave the outcome in God’s hand.
Why I wrote this post
Apologies for the delay, I meant to reply sooner, but it turned out to be a busy week 🙂 So, I’m not trying to radically interfere in Amish ways of doing things, or suggest Amish should get rid of guns or anything extreme like that. Accidents will happen and that is part of a rural lifestyle.
However, as I’ve come across these stories over the years, it struck me that they often seemed to contain details that suggested a laxness as far as safety goes.
I started to wonder if, pound-for-pound, Amish gun owners are more lax with safety than their non-Amish counterparts, and how much emphasis is typically placed on safety with guns in Amish households, especially as it pertains to children.
And this seems even more worthy of consideration, especially since the typical Amish home is full of children, often young ones — and for that matter many more children than the average non-Amish home (2,3,4 even 5 times as many children is not uncommon), thus multiplying the risk factor.
Here are some examples of what I mean, with quotes from the articles I’ve linked above followed by my comments:
1. “An 11-year-old boy was shooting at some birds on a fence when the bullet accidentally hit his 2-year-old brother in the side of the head.”
-So I have to ask why was the 2-year-old wandering around behind the shooting range. Luckily that was the sole example in the list in which the weapon was just a BB gun.
2. “A 9-year-old Amish boy who was shot in the head accidentally while raccoon hunting outside Fredonia died Tuesday in Children�s Hospital, Pittsburgh.
Rudy Shetler was shot at about 10 p.m. Monday along Bower Road in Delaware Township while hunting with family members, state police said. Police said a rifle accidentally discharged.”
Nine years old seems rather young to be out hunting at night, and if a rifle accidentally discharged to shoot him in the head, it means someone wasn’t following proper safety procedures as far as handling the weapon (it was pointed towards the boy).
3. “An 8-year-old Amish boy suffered a gunshot wound to the chest this morning in Leon when one of his brothers accidentally shot a .22-caliber gun at him while they were playing, according to Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Buchhardt.
The child, who is in stable condition, was rushed by ambulance to Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk and is expected to be transferred to either Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo or to Hamot Medical Center in Erie, Pa., Buchhardt said.
“Four brothers were playing in their house and one of them picked up a loaded .22-caliber gun and shot his brother in the chest,” the captain said. “Detectives are doing interviews with the boys, but it appears to be accidental.””
-A loaded .22 laying around, and the boys felt comfortable incorporating the gun into their play routine.
4. “LIGONIER, Ind.– A 7-year-old Amish boy was accidentally shot and killed by his brother who was shooting at ground moles on their farm.
The Noble County Coroner said Jaylin Miller died at the scene from a single gunshot wound.
The Noble County Sheriff’s report said the gun accidentally discharged.
On Monday hundreds of people from the small town showed up to the visitation to pay their respects to the Miller family.
A firearms expert at the Midwest Gun and Range said it’s very dangerous to shoot a gun at the ground.
Rocco Rigsby said, “I mean that could be very dangerous. I mean you are shooting multiple projectiles out of a shotgun at a close proximity. Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction, always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, and always keep the gun unloaded until you’re ready to use.””
-A 7-year-old is playing nearby while a brother is shooting at the ground in a dangerous manner. Another accidental discharge which means proper safety wasn’t followed (the gun was at some point pointed not in a safe direction (be it up or down) but at the 7-year-old).
5. “Police say the girl’s father was out shooting groundhogs and other rodents, when he put the shotgun down to go fishing.
Authorities say that’s when the incident happened and the 9-year-old girl was shot in her lower abdomen.
Pa. State Trooper Joseph Morris told KDKA TV News late Saturday Night, “there were several younger children we think caused the firearm to go off.”
“The rifle was left loaded and unattended in a pavilion, near a pond on the farm,” he added.”
-Father left a loaded shotgun lying around and the young children likely picked it up and played with it, shooting the 9-year-old girl.
6. “The coroner tells WTAE that the 12-year-old who isn’t being identified was holding a black powder revolver when Troyer grabbed the barrel of the gun. That caused it to fire, fatally wounding Troyer in the chest.”
-Grabbing the barrel of a gun seems like a big no-no (sounds like it must have been pointed in the grabber’s direction), this time a sadly fatal mistake.
7. “Officers determined the toddler was shot by a juvenile sibling who was handling a loaded rifle. Before the shooting happened, the children had been sent upstairs to get items for their parent.”
-We don’t know the age of the juvenile sibling, and we don’t know if one of the items they were sent to get was the loaded rifle…if it was, I question the wisdom of that. If it wasn’t, the children or at least one of them knew how to get access to a gun, which was kept loaded (which goes against NRA guidelines that say to always keep a gun unloaded until ready to use). https://gunsafetyrules.nra.org/
Pretty much all of these seem to have resulted from careless behavior, and thus would in theory be preventable.
They involve playing with guns, improper handling, leaving guns where too-young children can access and play with them, and so on.
Perhaps the actual number of accidents is low for a population in the 300,000 range; I searched for comparative stats with non-Amish rural populations but haven’t been able to find anything good to compare it with (it seems the figures often combine not just accidents but also intentional and self-inflicted shootings).
Not to mention, we don’t know how many other accidents involving Amish children happened in that time frame; this list came from a relatively short amount of time spent searching online for stories.
The fact that more might die by buggy accidents doesn’t mean this question shouldn’t be raised; to me the two things are unrelated. Many Amish do take safety precautions with their buggies. I am asking from curiosity if a commensurate level of attention is paid to gun safety, especially as it pertains to children, for reasons mentioned above.
The question of whether the accidents were fatal or not also to me does not seem to matter either as far as the core safety question goes, though I suspect that if an accident were fatal, it would be more likely to get reported and covered by more outlets, and thus would also be easier to find online. A non-fatal accident would be less likely to get media coverage, so it’s possible or likely that a number of accidents involving Amish children were not reported on.
So all that said, if someone in, or connected to, the many Amish communities out there reads this and it gets someone thinking and possibly even taking action (assuming it’s needed), I believe that could be a good thing.
Eric your post had me thinking… I personally have not ever seen an Amish man or teenager with a pistol, but hunting rifles are kept high, racked on a wall in the barn.
On these Amish farms, there are brothers and sisters, cousins and Amish neighbors who play — often times unsupervised as the adults are working nearby but not necessarily in watchful eye of the kids. This is understandable especially at certain times of the day when chores overwhelmingly dictate. Understand, I do not see negligence at all, I see an older 13 year old who is watching younger children preoccupied for a few minutes — that kind of scenario. And never near the road where the English can take pictures. Accidents happen on farms all the time, and some non-Amish these days might feel that Amish children are not watched close enough and are allowed too much acreage to play [on the farm]. Some English allow their boys to play football and the Amish are bewildered, Amish allow their boys to swim at the farm pond, and this baffles the English! Here it’s snowmobiles for the English teens sport, and the Amish being pulled by horse on skis during winter snow.
That said, I have never seen a nine year old Amish boy with a rifle [or gun] ever. Sixteen seems to be the age around here when Amish boys begin hunting with elder family members – usually for deer, turkey, rabbit – at the appropriate hunting season.
Interesting, Maureen. I do think there is a good point about there being different dangers in Amish and non-Amish life – physical, and also moral/spiritual and so on when you consider how technology and its trappings are embraced in non-Amish society. I went into this a bit in the “Is Amish life more dangerous?” post I linked above. Thanks for sharing this.
Thank you for this, Erik! I am going to print this off, make copies, and share them.
Sounds good Yoder, I hope it ends up being a positive thing. Happy to hear if you get any feedback and learn anything as far as how others see this.
Erik, my turn for apologies for a delayed response. Was a busy weekend, and had deadlines I had to focus on before getting to this.
Also, I would like to thank you for a kinder and softer-toned reply than my earlier response probably deserved. (ha) I hope I was not too curt in voicing what is within me a growing frustration at “we just gotta do something” over problems that are often made out to be more than they really are, solutions that don’t address the real problems that are there, and focusing on minor problems while greater-impacting issues are virtually or actually ignored. Part of it was focused at responses to this article found elsewhere (facebook) – but none of it was meant to be directed at you personally.
Pound-for-pound are Amish gun owners more lax, safety wise? I don’t know that I can address that over-arching question, for I know few Amish well enough to know what their gun-safety norms are. But since your article which was built around that question was based upon the examples that you highlight, I would like to address some of those – and in addressing them hopefully speak to the whole.
1) A BB gun. I do have some experience with one of these. Don’t know how old I was, but I’d guess somewhere around 8 was when I got one from my parents as a gift. And yeah, I imagine that it could “put someone’s eye out” as moms (including mine) always cautioned – but I also know that I intentionally shot myself in the foot a few times and it wasn’t bad enough to do any harm. And my dad with his older brothers used to have BB gun fights. Maybe not their wisest choice of play, but still not something that was deadly – probably not much worse than paint-gun fights today. Sure there are some high-powered BB guns out today – but we have no right to assume that this one was or was not. So basically I don’t put this in the same category at the other incidents you mention.
And you’ll forgive me if I take a degree of issue with the article that labels a BB as a “bullet” – I’m fairly confident that among those who know guns rarely if ever would someone use the latter to describe the former. Makes me wonder the degree of knowledge and possibly bias that the original article’s author may have had. Now having a 2 yr old around where even a BB gun is being shot – yeah, I would have some concern about that. But it would be more of a child care question, and not a gun question.
And as far as it being “luckily” that this was the sole incident among your list of a BB gun – I’m missing your point. I’d think it the other way around, because I really doubt that many if any of the other shootings would have been fatal if they had been BB guns.
2) Raccoon hunting. Have you ever been coon hunting? I have only been once or twice, and that was years and years ago. But it is a whole different ballgame than any other hunting I’ve done. It’s done at night, and night hunting brings a whole different set of situations to the table. It’s far easier to get spooked at night, what with coyotes howling just over the next hill, and you can’t see if there is a bear just beyond your lightbeam. It’s easier to get lost or just be uncertain of your location. But assuming the hunter is able to keep his wits and his bearings (as I assume this Amish guy did), you’re still moving at a fast clip at times through terrain you do not know and can easily stumble over things you didn’t see. I’m not justifying what this young Amish boy did in the least, and why he had a chambered round is not stated (so we aren’t sure who’s to blame); but I am saying that the situations in coon hunting are so vastly different than normal life situations that to think a single event in the one speaks to or of a general problem in the other is probably not a valid jump.
3) Loaded .22 laying around. In hindsight, this was obviously not a wise decision in this situation. But let me ask this: This is one event out of how many near-identical situations? Are there enough such events that show this to be a broad-range problem?
And I will add this: When I was growing up (the oldest of three, and only son), my dad had a loaded .22 tucked just inside his closet. We never touched it, and certainly didn’t play with it, because we knew it was off limits. So maybe the problem (if there is one) among the Amish isn’t an overall lack of gun safety, but rather either isolated instances of lack of due respect and fear for what dad says is off limits, or isolated lack of awareness by individual parents to put away what is too big a temptation for their individual kid(s).
4) Ricocheting shot/bullets. I’m no gun or shooting expert, but I have put in more than average amount of time at the range and just “plinking.” And this is one that surprises many of us at times. I’ve seen videos of well-versed shooter on a gun range and out of the blue a bullet comes flying back at them because of something it hit. If ricocheting bullets are a sign that gun safety has been abandoned…, few of us would be left shooting.
5-7) Yes, leaving a loaded shotgun laying around was likely poor gun safety. (Not knowing all the details I’m just a little hesitant to make that statement definitive.) I’m not ready to assume the 12 yr old was pointing the gun in an unsafe way – if the two kids (and 12 years old is likely old enough to be given some gun-related responsibilities) were arguing over whose turn it was and Troyer grabbed at it and pulled to get his turn, the pistol would naturally swing around and point at him. As to #7, what age range is juvenile? A mature 8-10 year old would be old enough to trust with retrieving a gun – I could see that happening when I was growing up. What caused the gun to go off? A stumble? The younger child coming in from another part of the house and pulling on the gun while the older sibling was carrying it? See, that is a huge part of my issue with some much of this kind of stuff – we do not know, and so questions and assumptions are made in that void of information.
And as for NRA standards…, I think we have to realize that the standards they come up with are to best cover all people for all situations at all times – for liability issues, if nothing else. NRA doesn’t know each situation nor each family to know what the threshold for reasonably safety is for all calls.
I’m not defending any one in any of this, nor am I assuming innocence on anyone’s part. Rather, I’m simply saying that there are far too many unknowns to be assuming in *either* direction.
And, IMO, even if all of these were due to safety neglect (which, again, I don’t feel is right to assume), do these very few incidents warrant such broad-based concerns? Or put another way, do we really find fewer than an average death per year worthy of such investigative concerns to the point that we will advocate for similar measures be expended on each and every thing that approaches the one-death-per-year threshold in our country? And if not, why isolate on this and ignore the others.
And one final thing: Why does it seem that we will pursue the lesser offender (guns/gun-safety) while not raising the same level of concern and investigative pursuit into the greater?
“…thinking and possibly even taking action (assuming it’s needed)…” – on this part, we can most certainly agree. In fact, the aspect of thinking and questioning any real need is what has prompted my involvement in this thread.
Erik, my apologies for the length of this reply. Please understand that I do not mean in any of this to isolate you out personally. But since you bring up the subject, these are my concerns about that subject – both specifically and generally.
Hey Don, no worries about any of that. So the BB gun and #4 were more about why are children wandering around essentially on a shooting range. I think “child care” and “gun safety” are 2 sides of the same coin in these instances. I’d agree “bullet” is definitely wrong terminology for a BB if that’s what they used. Maybe the writer was searching for a synonym but in that case I’d use sth like “projectile”. And you were right to be confused by my use of the word “luckily” in the BB gun example; must have been a brain freeze 🙂 I think the word I wanted there was “unfortunately”.
As for the possibility that someone was arguing then grabbing at the gun, then that is a failure right there in the child not respecting the weapon.
I don’t know how prevalent this all is, I am just raising the question based on some examples of what seem to be careless behavior by both parents and children in some communities. I suspect laxity in gun safety is not a general “Amish problem” but one that might be localized to individual families and communities, and that was reflected in one of the questions I raised.
Anecdotally I have heard that in some places the attitude towards guns is simply different than in others, and not in a good safety-minded way. Twice in the incident list above, the same county repeats itself (though it might not be the same community in each case).
I agree with Walter that accidents are tragic and often unpreventable, but these examples jumped out at me as ones that were sadly preventable with better precautions taken and more respect for the deadly force of the firearm.
I am not ignoring other issues; we have had dozens of Amish buggy safety posts here over the years (to my knowledge there are a lot more accidents and deaths due to buggy accidents than gun incidents) and this is one of a relatively small handful of gun-related posts, and really the first to pointedly raise the question for consideration. I would also suggest that these are the incidents that were reported, certainly there are others that weren’t.
Again, I’m not pushing some sort of blanket effort or gun control offensive against the Amish because I don’t believe in those approaches. Guns are a part of the fabric of Amish culture and American culture for that matter and it’s best to encourage being wise in how we deploy and use them. I’m simply drawing attentiom to the question – you are right we don’t know everything about each of these situations, but there are certainly those out there who do know the situations better “on the ground” in their own communities.
I think I agree with much of what you said, and certainly agree with your concern as a whole.
If I may just respond to a handful of particular comments…
* “As for the possibility that someone was arguing then grabbing at the gun, then that is a failure right there in the child not respecting the weapon.”
Yes, and maybe not. It could well simply be distraction, and not an overt lack of caring about gun safety. I was raised with a gun in the house from as far back as the first grade, and as an adult there has never been a time when we didn’t have at least one for home protection. Not only am I a graduate of my dad’s “Don’t touch it” safety course , I took hunter’s safety in my HS years, and I’ve been an avid hunter and occasional range shooter. And just last week after a trip to the range, after cleaning my guns, I found myself pointing one of them directly at myself. Is that a failure on my part to respect the gun? Yep, it is. Is it a lack of training, and would more training have prevented it? Nope, not at all.
* “I have heard that in some places the attitude towards guns is simply different than in others, and not in a good safety-minded way.”
You know, you just summed up a lot of the gun problem right there — at least to the extent that I can tell. At nearly 60 yrs old I am one of those who remembers when guys driving their pickups to school often had a shotgun or rifle in the back glass. Guns haven’t changed. We watched the old westerns with all the shoot-em-ups, and in large part movies/media hasn’t changed. Saying that to get to my point: I wonder if there has been a change in the number of gun-related accidents/fatalities *over time* among the Amish. Or is it rather just our awareness and our sensitivity (or over-sensitivity) to react to the risks of life? Media has so conditioned us to living in panic mode or save-the- mode, I think we either get desensitized or overly-sensitized to any-and-all risks we see in our world. But I’m rambling….
* “…but these examples jumped out at me as ones that were sadly preventable with better precautions taken and more respect for the deadly force of the firearm.”
Yeah…, but what death really isn’t preventable when you get down to it? All (virtually or actually) automobile deaths are preventable — don’t ride in one, or get rid of them altogether. All alcohol-related deaths are preventable by not drinking any booze. All medical-related deaths can be prevented by never going to the doctor or hospital or taking medicine (although you’d likely die another way much sooner). So ultimately the question isn’t solely whether it is preventable, but rather at what trade-off. And what exactly, in real-world activities, would it take to actually prevent these incidents? More verbal instruction? I don’t know, but if a nearly-60 yr old guy (myself) finds himself point a gun at himself, I’m confident that more instruction wouldn’t have taken care of that. Remove guns entirely? — yeah, when we remove cars and booze and wagons and buggies and threshers (etc.) in order to prevent the even greater causes of death. So what exactly would have kept these “preventable” accidents from happening?
* “I am not ignoring other issues…”
Yes, I know you’re not. My comment was more a generalization of all the discussion about guns and those hurt by them…, all the while ignoring alcohol-related injuries/death and a host of other things that are more deadly than guns. When someone wants to make an issue out of guns but ignores those things that cause greater hurt/death, I’m left to assume that they are not so much concerned about the hurt/death after all. When shouting out the minor and saying nothing of the major, there is something obviously wrong — and likely ignorance- or agenda-driven behind it. But again, I was speaking of comments outside of your own.
* “So the BB gun and #4 were more about why are children wandering around essentially on a shooting range.”
Just a slight point here: When I was a kid out shooting my own BB gun, there was no such thing as “shooting range”. It was all out in our yard, or possibly in the woods. So with as many kids as the Amish typically have, one could be shooting out in the yard or in the horse pasture, and another be watching her 2 yr old sibling in the yard and the baby makes a run for it. But it’s not like the little one strayed into a designated “range” that the older sister should have kept him out of.
Well, I’ve beat this about to death. (ha) Thanks for the discussion.
Norms vary... in reply to the question regarding emphasis on safety.
Maine is, in general, a very rural state with strong hunting and outdoor sports traditions. In the more rural areas it is not at all uncommon to see long guns standing in a corner or in an unlocked cabinet. While I have no data to offer, I would posit that kids are accustomed to and respectful of weapons. Yes, there are formal safety programs but the culture contributes greatly to the way guns are handled. I suspect we would see a parallel if we observed Amish children knowing how to act around farm animals versus a city child who has never been near a horse.
Accidents by definition are accidents. We’ll never achieve total elimination of them. (I’m not saying that prevention isn’t important.) This is certainly a tragedy and I believe we all wish it could have been avoided, but nearly everything in life is potentially dangerous. One of our important tasks as adults is to teach children to live responsibly and safely–when the culture supports our efforts we can be thankful.
Some kids just don’t listen
As a young child maybe 4 or 5 my father bought a pistol, took my brothers and I out to a range and showed us the damage it could do, let us all fire it once. That way we were not curious about it, weren’t going to mistake it for a toy, and visually understood the damage it could cause. (He shot melons and fruit from point blank). Once we got home he showed us where it was to be kept and where the ammo went and told us all “if you touch it I’ll break your fingers”. Took us 10 years to ask to shoot it again. Despite having gun safety drilled into our heads by various relatives who did hunt and being shown how to treat and use different firearms, it didn’t stop us and the neighborhood kids from playing “one pump” with BB guns that resulted in more than a few hospital trips to remove BBs from peoples butt or thigh muscles. At least we all followed the “nothing above the waist rule” granted that was a long time ago and even back then had we not lived in a small community in a rural area we would never have gotten away with it. Most of those kids playing had taken hunter safety courses and knew very well what not to do. Some kids just don’t listen. Many firearm accidents involving children are out of curiosity, because they don’t understand them, don’t respect them, and don’t realize what can happen.
As a mother of 4 kids I can assure you sometimes you can teach them something till you are blue in the face, but it isn’t going to matter till they make that mistake for themselves.
Do I have firearms? Yes. Have I showed my kids the damage they can do and taught them firearm safety? You bet, even if it was a nerf gun they still had to show proper gun safety. Did those kids fire towards my house the first time they got to have an air soft battle? Yep and there are holes in my siding to prove it. But guess what, not a single one of them will touch the “real guns” unless we allow them to.
I’m sure the instance of firearm accidents is probably higher in the non Amish. I remember a babysitter inviting friends over and one set a pistol on the coffee table while they all went to smoke in the kitchen, found a loaded rifle under the back porch of an apartment building I lived in once. My cousin got treated for a GSW to his leg because he was burning empty boxes he cleaned out of his parents garage and unknowingly there was a .22 floating around unseen under a flap, he was 12 and supervised. As a kid growing up in the 80s and a teen in the 90s I remember hearing plenty of stories where curious kids shot a neighbor or sibling.
Just recently the first woman to make it through the training for US Special Forces was charged because she accidentally discharged a firearm while cleaning it in her home. You can’t tell me she wasn’t taught proper gun safety.
It’s tragic anytime a life is accidentally taken, but accidents happen. I have always taught my kids that when it’s your time, it’s your time. Be it by natural causes, freak accident or even homicide. The best we can do is be mindful of ourselves and grieve those we have lost.