Feathered Bastard

Eight Year Old St. Johns Boy Is Poster Kid for Gun Laws

If there's anything the tragedy in St. Johns should teach you, it's that if you plan to spank your eight year old 1,000 times, you may not want to show him how to shoot a rifle. Either that, or you might want to consider the option of a "time out" for the little bugger.

Sure, sure, no one deserves to die just for spanking some kid 1,000 times, but police claim the eight year old in question kept a record of his spankings, and that the thousandth would be the last. Of course, at this point, to say that we don't have all the details in the November 5 shooting would be an understatement. Even the boy's tainted video confession raises more questions than it answers.

Right now, turn on talk radio, and all you hear is the raging debate over whether this kid is the Arizona version of The Bad Seed and what should be done with him. (The latest is that he's been offered a plea deal by the Apache County Attorney.) But one thing that seems to be out of bounds for these radio wave nimrods is discussing why this eight year old had such easy access to the .22 rifle to begin with, and whether or not some modest gun laws might have prevented such senseless slayings.

Because, let's be real, Sand Land is chock full of gun nuts and the legislators who cater to them. In fact, the few gun laws we do have in AZ could be summarized on the back of a matchbook cover. Some of these laws actually prevent municipalities from restricting the sale, transport, or ownership of guns in any way. Hell, a minor can even purchase a gun in this state, as long as they have a note from momma or daddy.

As a result of this firearm-friendly climate, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence rates the strength of Arizona's gun laws a 6 out of a possible 100 points. We place near the bottom in the organization's rankings, right alongside West Virginia and Arkansas, where we belong.

I know, I know. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. But sometimes people who kill  people use guns, which makes their work a helluva lot easier. I reckon this St. Johns lad could have stabbed his pop and his pop's pal to death like Chucky in a Child's Play sequel. Or maybe he could've poured arsenic into his dad's coffee, though this would've required some specialized knowledge and probably a bit more maturity. By way of example, England's Graham Young, the infamous "St. Albans poisoner," was 14 before he began practicing on his family with doses of antimony and thallium.

But a gun is the great equalizer. With it, a child becomes as potentially lethal as a full grown man.

True, if you have gun laws, they only work to the extent they are enforced and people obey them. Yet there is one thing that could have absolutely saved the lives of the father Vincent Romero, and his friend Timothy Romans: A gun lock. Either that, or having the gun securely stored where the child could never get near it.

Online, you can buy devices to render your rifle or handgun harmless from $6.95 and up. Some are as simple as a bike lock. Others are fancier and more expensive. If any one of them had been in use on that .22, then the world wouldn't be fretting about the St. Johns boy, and how he had to go back to juvie after spending Thanksgiving with his mom.

And if Arizona had some sensible gun laws, oh, I dunno, like maybe a Safe Storage Law (sometimes referred to as a Child Access Prevention Law), requiring that firearms be kept locked up or rendered unusable by children with some sort of device, maybe Vincent Romero would have complied with that law, thereby saving his life and the life of his friend.

But the insanity of the gun crazies in this state is nearly impenetrable, so I won't be awaiting such common sense legislation. Because I know it will likely never come. Not in this benighted state. And certainly not anytime in the foreseeable future.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons