Sunday, June 24, 2018

How much trouble could they get into?

The year was 1981. The news series featured the risky nature of latchkey after-school care. Basically, it's allowing your preteen son or daughter to come home to an empty house. That year I was in TV promotions for ABC and my task was to attract viewers for the "Closeup" series. I wrote a script and we hired an actor to play a nerdy little guy "home alone" for an hour or two. The kid blows through the front door toward camera but fails to lock it behind him. Announcer, Ernie Anderson said, "He's a big boy, how much trouble can he get into?" "Then the little guy moseys into the bathroom to try his first cigarette. He coughs his head off as we dissolve into the living room where he's got his feet up in the recliner while on the phone. "Yeah, I'm just watching TV, Mom," the youngster explains. The camera racks focus and reveals he's holding a revolver in his hand which he points right at the lens. When he pulls the trigger, fortunately the chamber is empty.  

It was a compelling spot. But it never aired. ABC Broadcast Standards pulled it because the kid pointed his weapon right at the lens. Today's video games feature the point-of-view of gunman and criminals. And kids at home are still exposed to many unlocked guns in homes of well-meaning people. Nationally, about 1.7 million children live in homes with unlocked and loaded firearms. Gunshots are the third leading cause of death for children, claiming about 1,300 lives in 2017. 

Our younger son, Mike, had a frightening experience at preschool age while in the home of dear friends. Their younger son showed Mike his father's handgun, which his dad used in his law enforcement job. The youngster climbed up and got into the gun safe on the closet shelf. It was chilling to hear his mother reveal the experience. 

Last week, a national effort called ASK (Asking Saves Kids) Gun Safety Campaign encouraged diligent education to prevent accidental shootings. With the rise in gun violence, doctors are required to talk safety at annual physicals to parents who own guns. Many moms and dads are accompanying children on a first play date to find out if there's a gun in the house. 

Medication comes in childproof containers right from the pharmacy. Vehicles with smart airbags know if the occupant is too small to be safe and they disarm themselves to protect children. Wouldn't it be great if a gun was so smart it knew to lock itself when picked up by a child or someone who's had too much to drink? 

Is that asking too much from manufacturers who earn $13.5 billion a year making weapons? 

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