This 63-year-old grandmother, Linda Maddox, took a lot of precautions at night. She kept a chair pushed up against her bedroom door, and she slept with a loaded .22 caliber revolver by the door. When she heard the door opening just before 1 a.m., she fired a shot in the dark and hit Tyler Maddox, her 7-year-old grandson.
Child care is a struggle for many working parents. When parents recently sued Care.com for the death of their infant, I remarked to friends that I was glad my kids are only babysat by their grandparents and other family members. It was a smug, unfair thing to say. Not every parent has that option. And more importantly, family members aren’t a fail-safe against abuse or accidents.
Is Tyler Maddox’s shooting a sign that parents can’t trust anyone? No, of course not. We shouldn’t get sucked into the culture of fear-based parenting and freak out that our kids are doomed whether they’re in day care or babysat by grandma.
Is Tyler Maddox’s shooting evidence that loaded guns shouldn’t be kept around kids? Absolutely.
I understand the difficulties of having family members watch kids. I’m constantly picking my battles when it comes to what my parents feed my kids, what they let them watch on TV and how they’re allowed to behave. But when it comes to guns, I know exactly where the battle lines are drawn. My parents own many guns, and my kids aren’t allowed over there unless those guns are locked away in their enormous gun safe.
We don’t know anything about Linda Maddox. Maybe she has extensive experience with firearms. Maybe not. Whatever her experience with guns is, it wasn’t enough to prevent her from making a snap judgment in the dark in a home where her twin grandsons were sleeping.
Gun injuries send about 20 kids to the hospital every single day in the U.S. Responsible gun ownership needs to involve keeping weapons away from kids and out of the hands of anyone who might accidentally shoot a child. As the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office investigates this shooting, maybe all of us should account for the guns in our homes and the homes of our loved ones.
There’s no excuse for kids getting shot.