How would you answer the question, “what is technology?”
Please take a moment to think about the question before reading on. My words will wait.
In 21st century America, your answer will likely include some aspect of computing. “Big tech” equals Amazon plus Apple plus Google plus Meta (shudder) plus Microsoft.
However common that answer might be, it is a narrow vision.
Humans choose to adopt or reject a technology. Granted, sometimes the choice to adopt is a grudging one. Sometimes friends and family pull us along. Sometimes the legal system does.
Safety-focused technologies such as seat belts, air bags and car seats designed for children have reduced deaths from automobile accidents. Why? Because we — society — mandate their design and use. We elevate social good over individual choice.
Ignoring safety technology can lead to tragedy. That happened Tuesday, when two parents in Muncie, Indiana failed to appropriately secure their handguns.
As a result, their 6-year-old son “found a key needed to open the [gun] safe, perhaps still inserted in the keyhole.”
Kimberly Grayson told police her son had opened the safe before. She also said she and her husband had taken the boy to a shooting range and tried to teach him how to fire a handgun.
Jacob Grayson indicated he had moved the safe to “the other side of the dresser” after his son had opened it earlier. He told investigators the safe contained two loaded handguns.
You know what’s coming, right?
The six-year–old boy shot-and-killed his five-year-old sister. She died from “a severe gunshot wound to the head.”
One child dead. One emotionally damaged for life, a childhood probably without his parents. They “were preliminarily charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death, a Level 1 felony carrying up to 40 years in prison, and three additional counts of neglect.”
The technology — the gun safe — did not fail. The parents (aged 27 and 28) failed to use it properly. No safe is protective if the key is easily accessible.
Indiana does not have a safe storage or gun lock law. Thirteen states plus the District of Columbia do: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Kinda like the variance in motorcycle helmet laws, but helmet use directly impacts only one life, the rider’s.
Automobile accidents were the leading leading cause of death among children and adolescents (1 to 19 years of age*) until 2020. Now it’s firearms.
No peer country allows firearm technology to be used to slaughter its children like the United States of America.
Canada is the only other peer country where firearms rank among the top five leading causes of childhood deaths, where they rank fifth.
Combining all child firearm deaths in the U.S. with those in other OECD countries with above median GDP and GDP per capita, the U.S. accounts for 97% of gun-related child deaths, despite representing 46% of the total population in these similarly large and wealthy countries. Combined, the eleven other peer countries account for only 153 of the total 4,510 firearm deaths for children ages 1-19 years in these nations in 2020, and the U.S. accounts for the remainder.
Firearms account for 20% of all child deaths in the U.S., compared to an average of less than 2% of child deaths in similarly large and wealthy nations.
On a per capita basis, the firearm death rate among children in the U.S. is about 7 times the rate of Canada, the country with the second-highest child firearm death rate among similarly large and wealthy nations.
If firearm deaths in the U.S. occurred at rates seen in Canada, we estimate that approximately 26,000 fewer children’s lives in the U.S. would have been lost since 2010 (an average of about 2,300 lives per year). This would have reduced the total number of child deaths from all causes in the U.S. by 12%.
I have a theory as to why one of the most deadly technologies available for purchase is regulated less in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Corporate profits.
On 03 June 2022, NPR reported that “[p]ublicly traded gun manufacturers have netted some $3 billion since the pandemic began.”
In 2020, gun sales in the United States exceeded an estimated 21 million. In 2021, the estimate was about 19 million guns sold. The previous record was 2016, when gun sales were estimated at 16 million. Guns sales in 2021 were more than twice that of 2001.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform is holding a hybrid hearing on Wednesday 27 July at 10 am Eastern to examine practices and profits of America’s firearms industry.
The tool has no agency.
When will we elevate life over profit and end the carnage?
* Infants (less than 1 year old) “are typically not included because of certain fatal conditions unique to children under a year old.” The leading cause of infant death is congenital abnormality.