This first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Another dead child. This time it was 6-year-old Maliyah Palmer of Florissant, Mo., a first-grader at Green Trails Elementary School in Chesterfield. She was accidentally killed by her 12-year-old brother, who found a 9 mm handgun in their parent’s dresser drawer. Her death came days after the sixth anniversary of the massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
On average, 5,790 children in the United States receive medical treatment in an emergency room each year for a gun-related injury, according to a recent study from 2012-2014 data. About 21 percent of those injuries were unintentional. The rest were suicides and homicides. Appeals to the morality of gun manufacturers or their lobbies have proven useless, but perhaps they can be persuaded by the lure of greater profits.
Entrepreneurs have been developing gun technology that uses biometrics to identify a weapon’s owner while disabling it for anyone else. These so-called smart guns won’t prevent every gun death. But they can certainly cut down on accidental shootings and prevent crimes or suicides with weapons that are owned by somebody else.
Smart guns aren’t largely available because the firearms lobby opposes them, and gun manufacturers are reluctant to invest in them. In fact, when Smith & Wesson, one of the largest handgun manufacturers, considered developing smart-gun technology in the wake of the Columbine school shooting in 1999, the National Rifle Association turned on the company. The NRA convinced gun owners to boycott the company until it backed off the idea. Major advances in gun-safety technology have stalled since then.
Yet, there is a demand for a safer product. A 2016 study from Johns Hopkins University found that almost 60 percent of Americans who are considering a handgun purchase would be willing to make it a smart gun. This is an untapped business opportunity.
Public opinion toward gun control has shifted in the past year. Never-ending reports of mass shootings and schoolchildren killed by guns will continue to build public support for gun reform.
Among 23 high-income countries, 91 percent of children killed by firearms in 2010 were from the United States, according to a 2017 American Journal of Medicine study. Manufacturers of these lethal weapons know that they are accessible to children. They know the high possibility for tragic results because they monitor the statistics.
At least 26,000 U.S. children and teenagers younger than 18 were killed by gunfire from 1999 to 2016, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If a disease had killed 26,000 children, our country would devote millions to find a cure.
A potential cure to stem the rising tide of gun violence already exists. If gun manufacturers won’t put lives before profits, they should consider the profit in saving lives.