Constitutional Law

Parents of slain child want adults to keep guns secure


Ronald Holt doesn’t have a problem with people arming themselves for home protection. But the debate over gun control became personal for him earlier this year, when authorities and neighbors say a 4-year-old neighbor boy shot and killed Holt’s 6-year-old son, Brandon, near their home in Toms River, N.J.

Anthony Senatore Jr., the father of the 4-year-old, faces an ongoing criminal case. He is accused of leaving a .22-caliber rifle loaded and unlocked in his bedroom, where his son found it, as well as leaving other firearms unsecured in his home. Holt, who gets a sick feeling when he thinks about his dead son, doesn’t want to see his neighbor separated from his own children, yet feels there should be a price to pay for Brandon’s death, the Star-Ledger reports in a lengthy article.

Holt similarly doesn’t take a hard line about gun control. The Children’s Defense Fund points to an estimated 166,500 children and teens killed in the U.S. between 1963 and 2010, more than triple the number of American soldiers who died in action in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars. But the National Rifle Association notes that violent crime in the U.S. peaked in 1991, then dropped by nearly 49 percent throughout the next two decades until reaching a 41-year low in 2011. During the same period, the number of guns in American homes hit a new record high, as 120 million more weapons wound up in private hands.

As lawmakers throughout the nation debate, in the wake of a Connecticut elementary school massacre last year, whether laws intended to keep firearms out of the wrong hands should be strengthened, Holt and his wife, Christine, are primarily concerned with how many young children in the U.S. seem to be able to get hold of loaded guns. Almost every day, it seems, there is a story in the news about children, some so young that they have only been walking for a year or two, shooting other kids.

“I just want the laws to be stricter in a sense of these adults that leave the guns out,” Christine Holt told the Star-Ledger, adding “I don’t think any gun should be left out, unattended.”

The Holts have filed a civil suit against Senatore and his wife, Melissa. The Senatores did not comment about the litigation during a brief conversation with a Star-Ledger reporter in which he expressed regret about Brandon’s death and in which Senatore’s father said the tragedy should not be treated as “entertainment” by the news media.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Dad faces child-endangerment and weapon charges after authorities say son, 4, shot playmate to death”

ABAJournal.com: “Gun Control Debate Gains Traction as Obama Appoints Task Force in Wake of Conn. School Slayings”

ABAJournal.com: “Connecticut lawmakers pass gun control law; other states take opposite tack”

Updated on July 24 to link to ABAJournal.com posts about gun control debate.

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