It's amazing what we can do when we put our minds to it. But we have to care.
Did you know that the automotive electric self-starter was invented because someone was killed by a crank start? That's right. In 1908, a Detroit car guy stopped to help a woman on the city's Belle Isle when her snazzy Cadillac stalled. Byron Carter, founder of the CarterCar company generously offered to rescue the stranded lady. He had sold his company to GM in 1909 and was a buddy of Cadillac founder, Henry Leyland. Well, when he cranked the woman's Caddy, the engine backfired and the crank mechanism slammed Carter in the jaw, breaking it. Gangrene developed, then pneumonia and Carter died that year. Reportedly, Leyland was so saddened, he promised his engineering team a Cadillac would never kill another person. In 1912, the luxury carmaker introduced a self-starter on its vehicles. No more killer cranks. GM genius, Charles Kettering, and founder of Delco held the patent for the life-saving device.
In Muscoy, California this week, a four-year-old boy accidentally shot and fatally wounded his cousin, a two-year-old girl. The dead child's 53-year-old grandfather has been arrested for child endangerment. He recklessly left the loaded firearm within reach of the children. I would not want to be that grandpa. My heart aches for him.
Now, I'm guessing his relatives won't sue him for liability in the death of their daughter. And the parents of the four year old won't sue him for damages in the trauma their boy endured when he picked up a gun and killed his relative.
In one way, that's unfortunate. Because lawsuits involving damages due to gun violence could lead to dramatic improvements in gun safety. They could spark the type of powerful technology improvements that have helped dramatically reduce highway deaths in U.S. since the turn of the 21st century.
Please allow me to explain. Here's what happened in the car business. It's the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) that has applied profound pressure to automakers and government regulators. The IIHS has powerful lobbies and clever public relations teams who help generate a lot of data, test results and information about those car crashes that cause the most expensive automotive injuries. Their work leads to high-profile news stories. To protect the profits of insurance companies, the IIHS researches vehicle safety to identify the issues that cost insurers the most money. Technology companies seize on these situations to create interventions to help save lives. With plenty of grease applied by the insurers, sooner than later, these advances often become required, standard equipment. According to the IIHS, there were nearly 51,000 vehicle-related deaths in 1980. Forty years later, in 2011, there were about 19,000 fewer deaths! That's a lot of lives saved! And between 2005 and 2009, the number killed plummeted from 43,500 to 32,500, about a 25% drop.
Not coincidentally, in 2009 and 2010, carmakers were standardizing electronic stability control (ESC), because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would require it by 2012. ESC helps reduce the likelihood of a crash up to 65%. Most people today don't even know they have it on their vehicles because it's a sophisticated, automated system.
Imagine if that gun the four-year-old boy picked up this week had a way to detect that a child was holding it and not its owner. I've written a similar line recently. I'm taking a cue from the insurance people. Keep up the pressure.
Maybe if we pray for a change as well as continue to push for change the way the IIHS does, we'll see improvements in firearm safety sooner than later. Miracles are possible. Jesus himself said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater one's than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)
So, what are we going to do about all the kids who are dying? Do we care?