February 23rd, 2009
04:11 PM ET

Lock up guns, not kids

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/02/21/boy.homicide/art.victim.wpxi.jpg caption="Police say Kenzie Marie Houk's daughter found her shot to death in her bed on Friday."]
Lisa Bloom
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

Another young child has been accused of picking up a gun and fatally shooting a member of his household. In western Pennsylvania, an 11-year-old boy has been charged in the murder of his father’s 26-year-old girlfriend, who was eight months pregnant.

As I read down the article yesterday, here’s the underreported fact that jumped out at me: the boy had a shotgun that was specially manufactured for children. Let me say that again. The boy had been given a youth shotgun, smaller than the adult version, but apparently, just as deadly.

Are we out of our minds? I have long been saddened, as I interview one grieving family after another, that we lack the political will to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people, and even children, but now we’re making special kiddie guns?

This fifth grader, charged as an adult, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. Pennsylvania, my beloved home state, has the shame of having the highest number of juveniles in the nation serving life without parole sentences. And now they want to lock up another kid and throw away the key.

What are we doing?

I have a simple solution: lock up guns, not kids. It’s so simple. Lock up guns, not kids. Let’s prevent these crimes, and stop throwing away chidlren’s lives.

Lock up guns, not kids. Can’t we all get behind that?

Editor’s Note: You can read more Lisa Bloom blogs on “In Session

Filed under: 360º Follow • Crime & Punishment • In Session • Lisa Bloom
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. jen

    As I have said before, i was raised in a home where guns were readily available for any of us to use, no matter the age. We were all taught the purpose of the gun and the safety behind it. With that said, my parents also knew their children. Did the father actually know his 11 yr. old son? To think that he would buy him a gun for Chritmas and 2 months later it would be used in a double homicide amazes me. I don't have a problem with kids using guns, or owning them. My brother at the age of 11, was out hunting and bringing food in to be served for supper. But. . . if there were mental issues going on, I highly doubt that my folks would have allowed it.

    February 24, 2009 at 10:01 am |
  2. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Whether it was an "adult" or custom made weapon for children--realizes this--guns don't kill---it is the people who used them–and you can make that analogy to [anything] available to all.

    February 24, 2009 at 9:12 am |
  3. Lynne

    When we hold parents responsible for shootings by children then and only then will this barbaric incarceration of children stop. I own a german shepard and have taken every precaution to have my dog fit into every situation. Responsibilty for children,animals,etc. takes consistant and reptition leadership by a responsible person. Lets face it, in todays world people don,t even want to be responsible for their own futures. May God continue your strength Lisa and thank your mother for her tireless work for victims also.

    February 24, 2009 at 9:10 am |
  4. Tarja, Finland

    How many more incidences like this must happen before we are going to learn anything? And it is basically easy; stricter gunlaws and keepig those firearms locked up.
    In recent years schoolhooting-incidences have happend in Finland and although shooters were of age, the right to own a gun by a private citicen was quickly made much,much tougher to get.
    For the under aged it is the parents who have the full resbonsibility.ALWAYS !

    February 24, 2009 at 6:33 am |
  5. Jim Foster

    In such a diverse population that makes up the USA you will have people that do not have all mental facilities in order,and people like this do not deserve being a gun owner,and there are more people killed or injured driving there cars then guns and we do not outlaw cars simpliy put -Guns Kill People Like Spoons Make Rosie O'donnell Fat.

    February 24, 2009 at 3:10 am |
  6. Cliff, Utah

    Neo, you are wrong. I've carried a gun almost every day for over thirty years. I don't carry a gun to kill, I carry it to stop any action that can no longer be allowed to continue. If the person performing that action winds up deceased, bummer. He or she should have considered that possibility before they acted. And to anyone that thinks that the law enforcement community will or has a duty to protect them personally, you are so sadly wrong that words cannot convey it. There are numerous 911 tapes of people being raped and murdered while law enforcement was trying to get there. You have the right and I might say DUTY to defend yourself by whatever means possible if you are attacked. Call the cops when you're through to take a report and remove the body.

    We all recognize that this is an 11 year old we're talking about, and you are extremely naive if you think that, absent a firearm, this crime would not have occurred. Any man, woman or child that wants someone dead will find a means to make it happen. Yes, the weapons should have been secured and that is the fault of the owner. But, if you really want to save lives, ban automobiles. And save your argument that you NEED your car, because I NEED my weapons!

    February 24, 2009 at 1:59 am |
  7. Daniel Tohhen

    Its ok in mexico its normal for kids to have pistols to safe accidents happens

    February 24, 2009 at 1:19 am |
  8. Julie San Diego, CA

    If you were a kid and your loser dad had impregnated a girl only 15 years older than you, wouldn't you feel so angry you'd want to shoot something? Think about the teasing that kid had to endure at school.

    As adults, we know that's not the way to work out problems. As an 11 year old boy who probably thinks his world is coming to an end because mom and dad aren't together anymore and dad is knocking up a girl not much older than him, this probably seemed like a good solution.

    The real villians are the irresponsible father and absent mother who messed up so many lives. If you can't stay together, don't have kids.

    February 24, 2009 at 1:12 am |
  9. Brandon Scuff

    hey that kid still gots his life ahead of him leave him alone guns are awesome we rednecks pertect our kind with guns all the time aint that right cori....

    the boy needs his parents take them away and he will just grow up to be a depressed killer

    February 24, 2009 at 1:07 am |
  10. Joy

    I'm tired of all these psychologists with their mumbo jumbo crap. This kid is a bad seed period. Didn't everyone jump on the bandwagon to get the little 13 year old out of jail about 10 years ago for tossing around a little girl like a rag doll until she died because he "didn't know better?" Where is he now? Didn't he go to jail for robbing someone? Wake up grown-ups kids are just as smart as you, sometimes smarter.

    February 24, 2009 at 12:16 am |
  11. Douglas R. Davies

    The child who used the gun is not guilty of a premeditated crime in the sense that an adult is. The child probably requires extensive therapy in areas such as anger management and social responsibility.
    The person who is guilty of a crime is the parent who left a weapon within the childs' reach and, obviously, did not teach his son respect for life. For the parent there is no excuse and no punishment grave enough.
    Locking up guns is not a solution.

    February 24, 2009 at 12:12 am |
  12. Devin

    I'm more than sure that this child knew what he was doing. There's no record of mental instability or incoherence. He knew what the guns are for and he knew how to use it. You don't pick up a shot gun and fire it at point-blank range (having the intent of a hit) to say that he shouldn't be punished to the fullest extent possible laid out by law of crimes committed by minors is reprehensible. Murder is murder, no matter the age. Still though, we know that the child did not buy the gun himself (at least I hope he didn't find a loophole like that) so the one that purchased the gun for him should be punished as well.

    More bad loopholes: This child-sized shotgun used the same thing as the real hunting guns–gunpowder and lead. Just because it's for a child doesn't mean that it's not just as dangerous. So, then, why aren't these required to be registered?

    The incompetence of some parents today is becoming part of the problem. If they didn't have the sense enough to lock up their guns, no matter to whom it belonged to, then this murder is just as much their fault as it is the child's. They may not have fired that trigger, but by leaving the gun in their care in keeping, they are just as guilty and need to be punished.

    February 23, 2009 at 11:14 pm |
  13. Jerry

    Many of you have missed the big picture in this sad story. At eleven years old, this boy, unless he is mentally challenged, certainly knows about life and death. He knows about the finality of his actions. He knew those things when he decided, for whatever reason, to take this woman's life. He did it while she slept, because he knew it was wrong and wanted to do it in a sneaky and stealthy manner.

    None of that is the point to be made. In fact, the point is not even whether he had access to a gun or not – not even whether it was his own youth model shotgun. The point is the fact that this woman was the target of his hatred or jealousy, and she was going to be dead, one way or another – the gun was just an expedient way to do it. It's very likely he owns a baseball bat he could have easily used on her; he could have used a kitchen knife; he could have found a brick, rock, or hammer to use. It really doesn't matter what he killed her with, she was going to be dead.

    The problem to discuss in this boy's case is not gun control, gun safety, or gun ownership by youth. The issue is the boy's mental state and how he got to a point in his young mind where human life had no value – it's the question of "why" he killed her, not "how".

    February 23, 2009 at 10:43 pm |
  14. KIm

    This story is so shocking it places one at a loss for reason to comprehend why ? Get the guns on lock down and out of homes with young people ! Reinforce the laws for parents that own guns with younger children in the home ? Parents are responsible and at eleven years old, this young person was old enough to recognize his actions were wrong. What created the circumstances upon which this young person would fire a gun ? How could it have been stopped ? No gun in the house ? Where was the intervention to have prevented the tragic circumstances ?

    February 23, 2009 at 10:41 pm |
  15. Mark L Holland

    If it had not been a rifle, it would have been a handgun, if not a handgun, then a knife, if not a knife, then a rock, if not a rock then poison. The women was killed by a 11 year old murderer, not by a piece of metal mounted on some wood.

    February 23, 2009 at 9:36 pm |
  16. Rigor

    I wonder if the kid's father is a Democrat or a Republican.

    February 23, 2009 at 9:30 pm |
  17. Jeremy, Arizona

    How about lock up the moronic parent that lets his child have a gun in his room? I think HE(Parent) should be held responsible. Who in their right mind says, "Here Son, heres a gun!! Something that can kill your brothers and sisters(stepmother). A cabinet with a key? Um..A trigger lock? Nah, just keep it your closet...I trust ya."
    C'mon really, whos fault is this?!?

    Parent: Life in prison , GROSS NEGLIGENCE!!
    Boy: 15 year mental institution, REHABILITATION!!

    February 23, 2009 at 8:01 pm |
  18. Roy

    Those who claim “don’t blame the gun”, are morons.
    But Cori, in-animate objects can't initiate actions on their own. It takes a user. Not everyone who owns a gun uses it to kill like you say. A MAJORITY of people buy them for protection. I imagine you would be upset with a Policeman for shooting someone who was going to cause you harm.
    Neo, " People who carry guns have an intent to kill". I've carried a gun for over thirty years and not one dead. I was trained that if I had to pull my weapon it was to be used and NOT to scare or hold someone at bay. Realize this, HUMANS will always have that intent whether it be rock, pointy stick, gun or nuclear weapon. It will never go away. Some people need to open their eyes. Substitute any object name you desire and the following should be true enough, __________ don't kill people, people kill people.

    February 23, 2009 at 7:55 pm |
  19. Natalie

    Tragic – even more so because it could've been avoided. How odd that you can't legally drink until 21 but you can fire a weapon as a child.

    The kid would've known what he was doing was wrong but he wouldn't be able to understand the enormity of his actions - that is something he won't really understand until later in his life.

    What he was doing was a cry for help that went tragically wrong. His life was obviously changing in a big way and children don't have the mental maturity to deal with those emotions. The fact that he had access to a gun added fuel to the fire.

    Also, think of what kids are seeing. All over TV, films and video games guns are being fired but you don't often see the enormity of what it means. The loss of life is glossed over. It's easy to see how a messed up kid would copy those actions.

    The parents need to be held somewhat responsible for this. This is such a parenting fail that they must be culpable. For them this is not a tragic accident but something they helped cause. Maybe then kids won't be given such ready access to guns.

    February 23, 2009 at 7:43 pm |
  20. Jim,California

    No You PROPERLY TEACH kids from a young age GUNS ARE NOT TOYS. You teach them proper handling,care,responcibility of handeling a fire arm.It is not the Gun but the person who pulls the trigger. I Grew up around guns We had 2 – 38's a 22, 2 shot guns a deer rifle & a 30-06 all loaded . Not one of those guns ever shot a human being- Made a few that made the mistake of sneaking around in the middle of the night think they were going to get shot & run , but never had to hit any one of them. Hope I never do but if the need does arise I have the knowledge & training I can frighten, wound, maim or kill as a LAST resort.

    February 23, 2009 at 7:20 pm |
  21. joe strickland

    Wow! Go Cori! I am law abiding musician, but at one point I was in the military. I also have had the unfortunate experience of needing a gun to stop an attacker from killing me. Here is my "menial" understanding of things. I make music and make people happy. And I also teach single and widowed ladies how to defend against attackers using deadly and non-deadly force. You go tell a rape victim that guns are sooo horrible and see what they say. I have worked with many rape and domestic abuse victims and none of them have said I seemed paranoid or like some crazed murderous lunatic.

    You can said I am paranoid. But a gun is the reason I can breath and play guitar and raise my 10 yo. I lived in New Orleans during Katrina. No one police, military, or otherwise tried to help me. It was the guy who kicked open my door with a shotgun, or me. I did not want or have a desire to kill him. I just saw the look of horror on my wife's face and had to act. Have "Cori" or "Neo" ever had a life or death experience like that. You have so graciously depicted gun owners as "paranoid beyond all belief". Have you ever had to defend yourself against gang members? Most of the people on this comment board who have come out against guns sound like spoiled brats. What is your life experience? I am interested to know how you have the right to depict gun owners in such a bad and ignorant way. Oh that is right, the same constitution that lets me be "paranoid beyond belief or help", supplies you the right to open your mouth and shout out your beliefs. Our country was founded by gun owners, and all the nonsense you mouth off about cannot change that.

    February 23, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  22. Dawn

    I don't care if people want guns, what bothers me is that people don't want to take responsibility for this right. I support the right to bear arms, I also support registration, mandatory gun training and background checks. This child never should have had such ready access to a gun, you can insist all you want that if he'd wanted to kill her, he'd have found a way, but one has to wonder, if he'd had to stab her or beat her would he still have gone through with it?

    February 23, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  23. GF, Los Angeles

    I completely agree with Cori.

    This kid should be locked up. He's old enough to know better. He shot this woman in the back of the head. Very callous for a child but planned indeed....she was still in bed! What did she do to him to warrant such an action?

    February 23, 2009 at 6:09 pm |
  24. Neo

    People who carry guns have an intent to kill. They are willfully saying if I was in a situation I'm going to kill you and I want you dead. They aren't saying I'm going to zap you with a stun gun, or mace you, or punch you in your face or do kae kwon do, or run. They are saying if you approach me in an unhealthy manner, determined by me, I will kill you because I have a gun. They have a psychological defect. Not a jerk reaction, but murderous intent. If people need guns to hunt, rent them at the hunting place and return them at the end of the day. You don't need a gun in your house, and if you think you do, you have issues.

    February 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
  25. xtina, chicago IL

    I don't think it's the guns that cause the violence. These people invited chaos into their lives. They made choices and lived a certain way; their chances were higher that violence would occur to them. I don't think you can blame firepower. Firepower has been with us for thousands of years- will be with us for our lifetimes. If someone wants to harm another, they will find a way.

    February 23, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  26. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    There is a lovely little thing called a gun safe. It is locked so that kids can't get into it. Apparently the adults in this child's life didn't use it. Many don't. They use this other lovely thing. It's called teaching kids responsibility around guns. If this kid was mentally ill, the second one is pointless. So, use the first one. Sadly, the dad is going to have to live with this for the rest of his life. A kid owning a gun isn't the issue. His mental health and responsibility are the issues. This kid wanted this woman dead. He'd have found another method had the gun not been there. By all means, lock him up if he is found to have pathologies that are not treatable. And if a person isn't sure about a kid, lock those guns away, too.

    February 23, 2009 at 5:31 pm |
  27. Emily

    Do all of you not realize that this is an 11 year old that we are talking about? This boy should have no right to bear arms. He is at a tender age and if he has not been properly educated by his parents he is going to have a difficult time distinguishing between right and wrong. As for killing someone with poison, what 11 year old is going to research and obtain the means of killing someone by poisoning them? I have an 11 year old brother and he's a smart kid but had he not been brought up by a good family he may not have the good moral judgement that he does today. We can't control how parents decide to raise their children but we can control keeping guns out of the hands of CHILDREN.

    February 23, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  28. Cori

    What is the purpose of a gun? Why do people buy guns? To kill, and nothing more, whether their intent is to kill a person, or an animal, it's all the same, it's killing.

    Those who claim "don't blame the gun", are morons. Quit using the excuse that a gun can't pick itself up and shoot, we know that you idiots! We're trying to explain something beyond your menial comprehension that people use guns to kill, and somewhere out of your asses, people believe you shouldn't blame "the gun". That's the best you can come up with? Wow. I bet these are the same folks who own a gun and are paranoid beyond belief, and beyond help.

    February 23, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  29. alan bixby

    allowing children to have access to firearms is the height of irresponsibility. it appears, that two lives have been lost in this
    tragic case.

    February 23, 2009 at 5:03 pm |
  30. Chris Sosa - Boston, MA

    Thank you, Lisa! Finally, someone seems to be getting it. To try a child as an adult is reprehensible. A child is not at the developmental level to even comprehend the magnitude of her/his actions. In fact, it could be argued that some, at eleven, still do not even grasp the concept of death at all, much less murder. To assume that this child even possessed the necessary malice and anti-social tendencies to be able to commit murder is to take a very cynical view of children. Maybe this kid will grow up to develop APD, maybe he won't, but the fact remains that we don't know. He's eleven.

    Sadly, we apparently can't all get behind locking up guns instead of children. People stubbornly cling to their deadly weapons and probably will for a long time, even as such horrible tragedies occur.

    What nation puts children behind bars? Sickening.

    February 23, 2009 at 4:58 pm |
  31. R.Heeren

    Would you rather that the boy stabbed her with a kitchen knife?
    If a person intends to do harm to another then all rocks, sticks, and just about everything on earth that one sould pick up could make Aa wepon, Watch your children and listen to them. don" mess with our right to bear arms. (not to be confused with Arm Bears). Don't blame the gun, it is the person who pointed it and pulled the trigger

    February 23, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  32. Cindy

    People kill people not guns. A gun can not get up, aim itself and pull it's own trigger.

    There is nothing wrong with owning guns as long as you are responsible about it. All guns should have a trigger lock that can't be opened but by an adult when there are kids in the house. The parents of this boy were not wrong in letting him have a gun. They were wrong in letting him keep it in his room when it should have been locked up.

    But if he was really intent on killing her he would have done it with or without having a gun present. There are poisons and other ways he could have chosen if he didn't have a gun. The fact that he shot her meant he wanted her dead so he'd have tried it another way if he didn't have a gun.


    February 23, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  33. Randy

    The kid know what he was doing, and will get exactly what is coming to him. I don't want sociopaths wandering the streets. If you take a life, you forfeit your own. Sadly, the Pennsylvania taxpayer is going to be carrying this waste of skin on it's back for the remainder of his worthless life. I guess you should be thinking about the general mental health of your fellow Pennsylvanians if you have so many youth killing people. Once again, people blaming guns for killing people instead of the person pulling the trigger. I hope for your sake that nothing like this happens to you. Education, not restriction is the answer to the problem, and no I don't own a gun. Never felt the need. I was raised around guns, and we never had any problems. We were taught to respect how dangerous they were, and the proper use of them. My daughter has a hunting rifle, and enjoys hunting very much. I don't hunt. I do not enjoy killing. I have no fear of her doing anything stupid or careless with her rifle, she had been taught. This seems to be a general failing of people to always try to place blame on someone else for their decisions. This is simple accountability.

    February 23, 2009 at 4:27 pm |