Children With Guns And The Color Of Responsible Gun Ownership

January 13, 2015  |  

Letting your child pose and play around with a gun is just stupid. Taking a picture and/or video of that child posing and playing around with the gun, and allowing it to spread around social media is not only stupid, but also embarrassing beyond epic proportions.

Some might  even suggest that the whole thing sounds criminal. I wouldn’t necessarily be one of those people, although I can certainly see how a kid with a gun might warrant some sort of intervention by a children and family services agency, or even Jesus.

I’m referring to  these two knuckleheads, who allowed their one-year-old to play with a possibly empty but real firearm while they recorded it on a cellphone.

For more details, let’s turn to MSN.com:

Authorities in Evansville said on Friday they found the video on the phone of Michael Barnes, 19, who was arrested Thursday after he agreed to sell a handgun to an undercover officer through a transaction made on social media, Evansville police said in a statement.

During what police called a “follow up investigation,” officers looking through Barnes’ phone discovered the video of the one-year-old baby putting a gun in her mouth. In the background, two adults, identified as Barnes and the toddler’s mother, Toni Wilson, 22, encouraged the child to play with the weapon, police said.

According to the report, the baby, as along with two other children, have since been removed from the home and placed into emergency care. It should also be noted that the parents, particularly the child’s mother, asserts that the firearm in question was not a real handgun, but rather, a pellet gun. However, local Indiana police say they are certain the baby was actually in possession of a .40 caliber handgun. Considering that police have been prone to confusing intimation guns with real firearms in the past (and with tragic consequences), I’m willing to give the mother’s defense some consideration.

However, I do understand why others might not be so diplomatic. You can watch the video here and make up your own mind. Please note that while the child’s identity has been obscured, you can definitely see him/herplacing the “gun” in their mouth a couple of times. There is no doubt that the images are quite disturbing, especially since we don’t know if it is a real firearm, or one of those toy guns that just look real. However, what is also disturbing is how far this story has traveled and why.

The story, which originated in Indiana, has been reported in almost every major and minor newspaper and blog site from here to Russia. And no, I’m not kidding: Russia’s state-owned cable news station has a nice write-up about this story on its website. Russia. A country that  has its own subcategory in comedy dedicated to poking fun at the harsh realities of life within Russia. We’re talking about a place where kids  bungee jump off of apartment building roofs just because they had a snow day at school. And yet, I’m supposed to believe that a Black American baby twirling around an (hopefully) unloaded, possibly real pistol is newsworthy in Russia?

I don’t know about that one, Putin…

Now, I’m not saying that the Internet and Russia might not simply be interested in a crazy story about a child with a gun. However, a couple of days earlier, the Montgomery Indoor Shooting Complex in Alabama made only moderate headlines for intentionally posting pictures on Facebook of a white infant, holding and surrounded by a number of real life firearms, and Russia was silent about it.

Yes, let me reiterate that for you: While the proud parents of Billy the Kid from the aforementioned video were being locked up for filming their kid playing with a gun, a legal gun club owner was posting similar pictures, and no one, including the infant’s parents, were charged for endangering the welfare of a minor.  No kids were taken out of their homes.

And this is not the first time that white kids with guns has failed to resonate with the public conscious. A quick Google search would net you a number of images, as well as blog posts, of white children posing with guns (the blog Mommyish has a perfect roundup of some of the more interesting pictures). While these pictures inspire a hearty debate and make a head shake or two, the white parents of these gunslinging tikes usually get to keep both their kids and their guns. Meanwhile, black parents end up in jail.

Now you might think this is an apples to oranges comparison  considering that the parents of the white children were likely legal owners of firearms, but it’s not really that different. After all, at the core of what supposedly makes this story so egregiously shocking is the image of small children brandishing firearms. Whether the firearm is a legal gun or not is irrelevant, especially when children with all sorts of legal rights to firearms have been known to accidentally shoot and even kill themselves and others.

We should be concerned about the socialization of children around firearms because a society fixated on instruments of killing is just not okay. Yet when we view and treat irresponsible white gun owners as responsible gun owners who have just gone wayward while only treating irresponsible gun ownership among black parents as criminal acts, we kind of obscure the socialization question altogether. And worse, we reinforce some very dangerous and subtle stereotypes about Black folks’ alleged proclivity to violence and ability to ever be responsible gun owners.

And just to be clear here: I’m not saying we need to dumb down justice or even social expectations in favor of more lax acceptance of gun ownership among children. I think it is a very bad idea. And I also recognize that this argument may fall on deaf ears considering the Black father tried to sell a gun to a cop. But if the second amendment is a right worth protecting, then it should be a right worth protecting for everyone. Just because a Black guy has a gun does not mean he belongs in jail or dead simply for having it. And  if we can view white children with guns without seeing them as future straw arms sellers,  we can also view black children with guns without seeing them as future perpetrators of homicides by firearm.

And you have to wonder about the actual point of the release of the video anyway. The parents didn’t upload it–the police did. The question is, for what purpose? It’s not that they needed help identifying anyone in the video. The “perps” were already in custody and the child was taken away to “safety.” Perhaps one of the aims was to color the case against the father of the child. It sounds  like he was locked up by police for “attempting” to sell a gun without a license to an undercover cop posing as a “friend” via his Facebook inbox. But I mean, he either sold the gun or he didn’t sell the gun…

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