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Jewish World Review March 14, 2000 / 7 Adar II, 5760

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
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Consumer Reports



Not child advocates, but self-advocates -- ONCE AGAIN, it's all for the children.

President Clinton recently met with the mother of Kayla Rolland, the little girl so tragically shot to death by her first-grade classmate in Flint, Michigan. "As a parent, my heart goes out to her, " Clinton said. "And as president, I'm going to do all that I can do to see that this doesn't happen to other children."

So Bill Clinton began promoting the wildly inflated but well-quoted figure that 13 American "children" are killed every day in gun related incidents. That's close to 5,000 such deaths every year. But the only way to arrive anywhere near that figure is to lump 19-year old convicted felons killed in gang-fights along with innocent first graders killed in class, as if both are children and there is no other cause for gun-shot deaths but the very existence of firearms themselves.

The reality is that the typical number of children -- meaning those aged 0-14 -- killed annually in firearm related incidents in recent years is between about 600 and 700. While that number is still tragically too high, it is dwarfed by those in the same age range who have drowned each year in recent years -- between about 950 and 1,050 annually.

If the president is really concerned about the safety and well-being of children, why doesn't he meet with the parents of, say, America's most recent juvenile drowning victim and pledge to do something about the terrible devastation of neighborhood and backyard pool accidents where so many of these deaths occur? Pools are, after all, a totally unnecessary luxury. But of course when it comes to the tragedy of drowning fatalities there is little that Clinton or his cronies can exploit. Yet a 6 year old shooting his classmate? Well for these folks that's a gold mine for their agenda.

When it comes to the Left, it's always about the "well-being" of children in their attempts to expand the role of government, whether it's nationalizing health care, massive federal involvement in child care, raising taxes or controlling guns. They are, after all, "child advocates."

For starters, President Clinton is demanding that mandatory trigger locks be sold with all new guns in the United States, and he acted as indignant as if he believed Republicans to be handing out loaded guns to children on street corners when he asked "how many people have to get killed before we do something?"

He wasn't thrown off-stride for a minute by the fact that the major manufacturers of firearms in the U.S. already include trigger locks with their guns and don't oppose making the practice mandatory, nor by the fact that people responsible enough to actually use trigger locks pose no threat to children in the first place.

For her part Clinton pal Marian Wright Edelman, president of America's leading so-called child advocacy group, the Children's Defense Fund, claimed that in this case the little shooter was primarily "a victim of this nation's romance with guns." And so the path is paved for such folks to advance their political agenda.

But don't look for these "child advocates" to point out that there are simply some shattered and violent, drug addicted, or criminal "families" which can't and shouldn't be put back together again, no matter what government programs, therapy or management get involved. Do not expect them to acknowledge that the problem isn't an inanimate object crafted into a firearm, but is rather violent people in the world who belong behind bars so that they can't kill, or steal guns and leave them lying around for little boys to find.

The households most likely to experience violence in all its forms are not those where children live with firearms. They are those broken families in which children live without their fathers. Such was the world of the 6-year-old boy who killed Kayla Rolland. But the truth isn't convenient for Clinton and his allies. Instead we're supposed to believe that Kayla's death is little more than evidence of America's "romance with guns," or a situation in which introducing a trigger lock would have prevented a killing.

That this is nonsense is, in the end, obvious. What's not so obvious is why folks who refuse to address the real issues behind such tragedies so they can instead exploit them for the advancement of their own political agendas still get away with being called "child-advocates."

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


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© 2000, Scripps Howard News Service