What is a good reason to keep a loaded gun on a nightstand near your preteen grandkids and fire indiscriminately at one of them in the dark? According to the United States' legal consensus, being afraid is enough, because the United States is full of irrational, scared, armed citizens, and God bless 'em, huh?
Tyler Maddox, 7, was sleeping in his grandmother's room, next to his twin brother, Tyrique, when he got out of bed about 1 a.m. Tuesday and tried to move a chair that his grandmother had propped against the door for security. Hearing the chair scraping against the wood floor, Linda Maddox assumed that a burglar was trying to break into her Town 'N Country house. She grabbed her .22-caliber pistol from next to the bed and fired into the dark, authorities said.
Tyler suffered a gunshot wound to his upper body and was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he underwent surgery. He remained hospitalized in critical but stable condition Wednesday.
But police say this is an honest mistake, there's no criminal culpability, nothing to see here, really. She's just a nice lady who was naturally "nervous" because her grown son was at work and she was home alone with the kids. So when one of those kids whom she'd naturally penned into a room did the natural thing and tried to get out, she did the natural thing and shot him with the gun she naturally keeps—loaded, naturally!—by her bed.
Thankfully it was a .22 and not a larger-caliber weapon, which would have liquefied some of 7-year-old Tyler's vital organs. Naturally.
But look, there's a consensus in this country. Not just among the cops, but the attorneys and the lawmakers:
"She thought there was an intruder. She had no way of knowing the intruder was only her grandson, so I think the decision not to press charges is justified," said Tampa criminal defense lawyer Bryant Camareno, who is not connected to the case. "The fact that she just fired into the darkness, that in and of itself is not a crime."
There was also no crime in leaving a loaded firearm within reach of her grandchildren. In Florida, adults can be charged with culpable negligence for storing a loaded gun near children only if a minor actually gets hold of the firearm and uses it to hurt himself or others.
Perhaps living with her series of unconscionable mistakes is sufficient punishment for Linda Maddox. Perhaps she now recognizes that the fear of harming oneself or one's family with a gun in the home is far more statistically rational than fear of intruders in the dark in the relatively pacific northwestern Tampa suburb of Town 'N Country. Perhaps she recognizes a host of additional precautions she could take, with a gun or without it, to avoid shooting her young grandson in the future.
But perhaps we could maybe also draft some public policy to help her and other gun owners come to that line of reasoning a little more quickly.
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