The Real Tragedy Is In The Timing

“No one is more highly trained”,
And yet, he did it wrong
And so, instead,
A kid is dead
So runs the world along

Police Chief Wade is charged today—
His gun was unsecured,
Atop his vault—
He’s still at fault;
Or so we are assured

The boy who found it shot himself
Fifteen years old, he died.
Let’s make it clear:
Just one more year
And no crime could be tried

If someone wants to kill himself,
You know he’ll find a way…
But charge the chief?
Beyond belief!
So runs the world away

(Ok, I didn’t know until today that “so runs the world away” was anything other than a line from Hamlet. I’m a little bit pissed off at Josh Ritter for stealing Shakespeare’s google spotlight.)

Along the lines of Oh-so-close-to-responsible ownership, there’s a story today out of New Hampshire, in which a police chief will be charged with one count of negligent storage of a firearm (maximum penalty: $1000) in the death of a 15-yr-old boy who found the chief’s service weapon sitting on top of a safe in a closet.

Through the investigation, [County Attorney James] Reams said it was determined that Parsons set the gun down on a safe in a closet.

“The chief left to go run errands and didn’t secure his weapon,” said Reams, whose office will prosecute the case.

While Parsons was gone, the 15-year-old, who lived at the residence but wasn’t the chief’s son, went into the closet and grabbed the gun, according to Reams.

Tragic and horrible, I hope you will all agree. What grabbed me from the article, though, was the reaction of a selectman, Shawn O’Neil. Let me set up his statement, first. What Parson will be charged with is defined as follows (also from the article):

The statute states: “Any person who stores or leaves on premises under that person’s control a loaded firearm, and who knows or reasonably should know that a child (under the age of 16) is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or guardian, is guilty of a violation if a child gains access to a firearm and the firearm is used in a reckless or threatening manner; the firearm is used during the commission of any misdemeanor or felony; or the firearm is negligently or recklessly discharged.”

So, O’Neil’s reaction is, for the most part, completely understandable:

Danville Selectman Shawn O’Neil, board chairman, said Parsons informed him about the charge.
“He told me what transpired and that he was going to be charged with this. It’s a sad situation,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil said the board plans to take no action against Parsons in light of the charge.
“It’s an elected position. The board can’t do anything, but on a personal note, I will vote for Wade in the next election,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil questioned whether such a charge would have been brought if Parsons were not a police chief. He said he feels the county attorney’s office faced public pressure.
“I know Wade is personally hurting and this is going to live with him for the rest of his life. This is just one more sad component added on top of this. This is not going to bring Jacob back,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil said he still has confidence in Parsons.
“Deep down he’s a really good man. I have the utmost respect for this man. We all err as part of human life. Charging him with this is not going to make anything change,” he said.

And I do feel for the Chief. This is going to rip him apart. Of course, the “responsible gun owners don’t have these accidents” crowd would have to blame the Chief. I mean, really, the only other option is to put all of the responsibility on a 15 year old boy. And who would do that?

O’Neil added that anyone looking to harm themselves will find a way.
“If this kid was 16 years old this would not be an issue,” O’Neil said.


Yeah, a 16 year old dead kid would not be an issue, like a 15 year old dead kid is. I almost wish there was a bit more ambiguity in what O’Neil sees as the real issue.

In the comments, it is suggested that it would be just as easy to commit suicide with a steak knife. Thing is, I know someone who tried to commit suicide with a steak knife. I have seen the oozing wounds on her wrists. The only reason I can say this is, it is damned difficult to cut your wrists open with a steak knife. But pulling a trigger? Bullets, it would seem, travel much faster than the speed of regret.

Oh, and along the lines of Tuesday’s “He took all the precautions, he’s a trained law enforcement officer, trains with weapons all the time”, I give you today’s “”Nobody is probably more highly trained than a police officer,” Reams said.”


  1. says

    I am a poet by nature, a federal employee by economy. I think I am now in love. Your poetry is awesome. After reading your art, I think I have to have a cuddle and a smoke. Thanks for being brave enough to publish.

  2. machintelligence says

    A problem that people who are around guns all day have is that they lose some of the sense of how dangerous they can be. People seriously underestimate how resourceful kids can be at finding things including spare sets of keys or lists of passwords and combinations. Even locking things in a safe is not necessarily foolproof.
    At some age, however, the responsibility must transfer to the principal party involved, and 16 years of age is not totally unreasonable. What if a licensed 16+ year old takes the family car and drives it into the side of a freight train at 100+ miles per hour? I suppose one could argue that it was an accident, but most likely it was not. This was a fairly common (more than once a year) occurrence at the university where I was an undergraduate. Whom do we want to hold responsible in a case like this?

  3. Cuttlefish says


    The trick is, we are always willing to shift the responsibility one way or the other, so long as it supports our argument. I’ve seen (apparently serious) calls for the 3 or 4 year old (news sites disagree as to his age) to be tried for his shooting, and I’ve seen calls to make any gun owner of any age responsible for their weapons even if they have been stolen from them–that is, if a gun is stolen and used in a crime, the person from whom it is stolen would be an accessory to the crime. It all depends on which argument is being made at the time–that guns don’t kill, and are perfectly safe, or that we must hold irresponsible gun owners liable, for the good of all the responsible gun owners.

  4. Carlos Cabanita says

    Almost nobody owns guns, here in Portugal, but my dad was a police officer. He admonished me in the most severe terms never to touch his service gun. But boys and guns… One day, I think I was eight years old, I found myself alone at home and I found out where he hid the key to the drawer where he kept the gun. I handled it and studied it with rapt attention. I repeated it on several other occasions and my dad never found out. I never released the safety lock nor opened the bullet clip, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to put everything back exactly the way it was before. This year I turn sixty and I still can draw that gun from memory.

  5. says


    if a gun is stolen and used in a crime, the person from whom it is stolen would be an accessory to the crime.

    I actually agree with this, if the gun’s owner fails to report it stolen in a timely fashion (by which I mean within hours or, at most, single-digit days after discovering it missing). I think people who choose to keep guns in their homes should be subject to strict liability for the safety of those guns: for their safe storage (unloaded and locked up, with ammo locked up separately), personally responsible for their safety in use, and always responsible for knowing where they are (i.e., reporting it virtually instantly if they’re lost or stolen).

    A gun in the home is vastly more likely to be involved in an accidental shooting, a suicide, or domestic violence than anything “good” (as if killing a burglar would be good), and a large fraction of illegal guns were originally purchased legally and then diverted to illegal uses. Short of banning guns — which I don’t advocate — the least we can do is hold gun owners responsible for the risk they create.

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