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msnbc.com
updated 10/1/2003 7:06:56 AM ET 2003-10-01T11:06:56

This weekend a 4-year-old boy shot and killed his sister and wounded his older brother with a .45 he picked up at his home. Afterwards he wanted to know if everyone was OK. It occurred in Maryland, one of only 18 states that has a law punishing parents for leaving a loaded firearm within reach of a child. So now the parents will likely be charged, as they should be, if it’s true.

But in 32 states in this nation, a child may have died because a negligent parent left his or her gun out and there might be no criminal punishment. And in most of the 18 states with the laws on the books, it’s only a crime if the child actually gets the gun. So if the authority sees a weapon sitting inches from a child who has not accessed it yet, there is little they can do.

We’ve enhanced punishments for drugs around schools. Kids are prevented from working until they reach a certain age. Various legal efforts keep children away from pornography on the Web. Now, many are even trying to protect kids from secondhand smoke.

But not from guns? Why? Because it’s politically correct to try to snuff out secondhand smoke but not guns? We’re a nation in love with our guns, but I’d hope we’re even more in love with our children.

The NRA constantly stresses its interest in gun safety, so why wouldn’t every state say it’s a crime if you don’t take care to prevent your young children from getting access to a dangerous weapons? Is even that politically charged? I hope not, and I hope it’s just a matter of time.

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