A child in a casket is any parent’s worst moment and greatest loss. A child behind bars is any parent’s fear.
And now there are two South Florida families facing those devastating scenarios. All because a loaded gun seems to have been left accessible to a 15-year-old boy.
Lourdes Guzman-DeJesus was on a private school bus heading to her charter school in the Homestead area when another passenger, 15-year-old Jordyn Alexander Howe, pulled out a loaded gun to show it off. And sure enough, the gun went off, accidentally striking Lourdes in the neck and killing “a beautiful angel,” as her grieving mother calls the honor-roll student.
We can decry the easy accessibility of weapons in a society that seems to have hardened to the acceptability of kids shooting kids or mad men shooting up theaters with assault weapons.
We can point to the recklessness of a teenager.
We can look to better training for bus drivers to spot kids with guns in their backpacks or security monitors at schools and on buses.
We can ask if charter schools, free from various rules that public schools must follow, shouldn’t have gun-safety courses.
We can look for scapegoats, sure, but the truth is everyone should claim responsibility, starting in the home all the way up to the governor’s office.
Yes, Gov. Rick Scott. Why?
Because his administration continues to defend the Republican-led Legislature’s new law that would ban pediatricians and other doctors from even asking their patients the simple safety question: Do you own a gun and do you keep it locked away from your kids?
In July, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke blocked the state from enforcing that onerous law. The judge noted in her decision that the state law “aims to restrict a practitioner’s ability to provide truthful, non-misleading information to patient.” One truth: If you own a gun and have children in the home you should store it where it would not be accessible, and even if found, the bullets should be stashed somewhere else so that it couldn’t misfire.
Investigators will determine the facts of this case, and it may well be that Jordyn’s parents did exactly what they should have done and yet the boy managed to load the pistol with bullets.
But one fact remains clear: Fining physicians $10,000 for asking a patient about gun access (and that’s just the penalty for the first violation) — with a minimum of $100,000 for any health professional who asks about gun safety more than twice — criminalizes doctor-patient conversations.
The law, as we’ve said before, is a stunning example of heavy-handed government intrusion from a Legislature that has been bellowing “small government” for years. In doing the bidding of the NRA, for whom gun control is the spawn of the devil, lawmakers and the governor foolishly trampled the First Amendment on its way to elevating the Second. (It also would keep those campaign donations flowing from the right-to-bear-arms crowd.)
Unfortunately, the governor is fighting the federal judge’s ruling. The state’s appeal continues.
Mr. Scott, a former hospital chain executive, maintains the privacy of patients is more important than their well-being. How sad.
For now Jordyn faces manslaughter charges and is being held at a juvenile detention center while prosecutors figure out whether to charge him as an adult. And a little angel named Lourdes Guzman-DeJesus has left this world forever.