When I first read about baby Howard "Bubba" Ludwig, I thought I was having my first hallucinatory episode. Eleven-month-old Bubba was recently issued a Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) card in Illinois. CNN picked up the report after Bubba's dad wrote an interesting piece about Bubba's FOID card in the Chicago Sun-Times. Apparently Bubba's grandfather gave an heirloom shotgun to Bubba as a gift. (Mind you, Bubba's dad has restricted his son's access to the gun so Bubba can't shoot it.) As both a legality and a bit of a joke, Bubba's dad applied for a FOID card in his son's name. Mr. Ludwig was surprised to learn that his infant had the right to own a firearm, even if he's too small to carry it. Ludwig wrote in the article:
I was expecting an official letter that went something like:
Attention Father of the Year,
We are not issuing a FOID card to an infant.
The Illinois State Police
I'd expect something similar to that as well; according to Mr. Ludwig, even the "NRA [was] surprised." It turns out that Bubba was denied a card twice due to mere technicalities (unchecked application boxes and the like). The third time proved to be the charm. In fact, you can see the adorable child chewing on his FOID card in a video on CNN.
As someone who works to protect children and youth, I'm undeniably confused. Why are states allowing children to possess guns? (And I'm aware of the Second Amendment. I don't think you could successfully argue that an infant, toddler, or child could be part of a "well regulated militia.")
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence last awarded Illinois an A- "on laws shielding families from gun violence." Highlights of Illinois' juvenile gun laws include the following, as summarized from the Brady Campaign website:
- Gun owners are held accountable for guns accessible to kids under the age of 14.
- Minors are restricted from possessing guns (but can possess non-handgun firearms with a FOID card).
- It's illegal to sell guns to minors.
These laws make me think that the state of Illinois isn't too keen on the idea of kids having guns. In fact, within the first sentence of the FOID Act you'll find the phrase "protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public." Yet the only age restriction within the FOID Act states that as long as a parent/guardian gives written consent for their child (under the age of 21), the minor can acquire a FOID card. However, there are a list of felonies, misdemeanors, and mental states that would exclude the minor from acquiring the card.
If protecting the public is a goal, why are we allowing kids to have guns? I'm just as scared of a shotgun as I am a handgun. Am I the only one? While I don't think that an infant could pull a trigger (but then again, I'm no kinesiologist), we've all heard horrific stories about children finding guns—and accidentally using them. I would assume that state legislators, police, parents, etc., would think that accidental death or involuntary manslaughter with a non-handgun firearm is just as tragic as the same scenario with a handgun.
Care to comment?