An 8-year-old boy shot a 7-year-old girl with a handgun yesterday at a day care center in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., hitting her in the arm. The boy, whose father is a convicted felon with a long rap sheet, had bragged that he had access to guns. The Washington Post asks in an editorial, “Why is it that after years of similar incidents and anguish and debate, the country has yet to enact laws to prevent such tragedies?” Maryland requires that handguns sold in the state be equipped with a childproof locking device, and bars people from leaving loaded firearms within reach of unsupervised children.
What didn’t happen was the idea of “personalizing” guns by incorporating technology restricting a gun’s use to its owner, for instance by using fingerprint recognition. In a 2003 study, researchers led by Jon S. Vernick of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health examined 117 unintentional homicide deaths in Maryland from 1991 to 1998, four-fifths of them involving handguns. The conclusion: 37 percent of the deaths could have been prevented by a “personalized” gun. Without stricter federal laws on access to handguns, more tragedies like the day care shooting will occur, the Post says.