Line of Fire: Doing the Math

How many weeks in a year? 52. How many weeks in two years? 104. Easy math, right? So simple a toddler could even do it. You know what else a toddler can do? Pick up a gun and shoot someone. In fact, thats exactly what happened each week the past two years. Every week, one toddler. Possibly even more disturbing is the fact that this statistic is on the rise6 percent each year since 2014.

If youve been following this series, you know my objective was to track the path of a gun from point of sale through evidence tagging after it has been used in a crime. I wanted to learn. I wanted to follow the object at the root of the controversy, not the controversy that followed it. Its hard, though, to sit and wait for police reports and breadcrumbssomething to turn up that is worthwhileand not get swallowed up in the tragedy of events that more than overshadow any politics.

This leads me to another thought: should I be avoiding the politics? Is that the right path? Or perhaps instead I need to place my two feet decidedly, and with full motherly revulsion, on the ground in a stance of opposition?

Tuneija was someones child. She was killed in a murder-suicide earlier this year. The details of her final moments were depicted somewhat graphically in a recent news article. The story is heart wrenching. My chest heaves in sorrow for her mother. It was a death I referenced in my original article, so when I saw the new piece, I reached out to my contact at the Madison Police Department (MPD) and asked if this meant I would finally have access to the gun information. I was informed that the case had been adjudicated, and hence, I could be provided the make, model, and serial number of each gun in question. Two guns were involved: Ruger SP101 .357 revolver, serial number 575-81851, and Ruger LC9 9mm semiauto pistol, serial number 322-66176.

Here is what I can tell you about those guns: nothing. In fact, I have never returned a more vacuous search engine result than this. I snapped an image of it for posteritys sake.

Your search - Ruger SP101 .357 revolver
serial number 575-81851 - did not match any documents.
Suggestions:
Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
Try different keywords.
Try more general keywords.
Try fewer keywords.

Ruger at XXXXXXs
Ad www.xxxxx.com/Ruger (xxx) xxx-xxxx
4.7 rating

357 Magnum For Sale
Ad sale.xxxxx.com
Search for 357 Magnum For Sale with 100s of Results at XxxXxxxxxx

Holsters For 357 Magnum
Ad www.xxxxx/today
Top Holsters for 357 Magnum Enjoy a Wide
Range of Deals.

The same result for both. It was troubling that I couldnt find out anything about the guns themselves, but Google was more than happy to tell me where to buy more. Not to be daunted quite that easily, I decided to look into Ruger itself since both guns originated from the same manufacturer. My next moment of amusement(?) was that the best source of information seemed to be Wikipedia. According to an article, Sturm, Ruger & Co. is headquartered in Southport, CT, and maintains manufacturing facilities in Newport, New Hampshire; Prescott, Arizona; and Mayodan, North Carolina. Ruger consistently ranks as the number one seller of firearms in the United States.

Of the total 2,288 makers of civilian firearms operating in the United States from 1986 to 2010, Ruger led the industry with 15.3 million firearms produced within the period. Rugerwas ranked the number one U.S. firearms manufacturer from 2008 to 2011. In 2011, Ruger manufactured 1,114,687 firearms, as their promotion, the Million Gun Challenge to benefit the NRA, played a significant role in the company maintaining its top U.S. manufacturer status. The company has set a new goal of 2 million firearms produced per year. From 2009 to 2012, Ruger was the top seller of handguns.

Thats it. Thats all I can tell you. The guns were manufactured in one of those three plants. After that, we have no idea what happened to them. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is responsible for tracking guns. When a gun turns up in a crime, local law enforcement can run a trace on the gun through the ATF. The MPD ran a check on the guns through the ATF, but the report is not available for release or review. Private citizens do not have access to the service. The trail dies here.

During my investigation, I was turned on to an organization that deals with gun control: The Trace.

The Trace is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States. We believe that our countrys epidemic rates of firearm-related violence are coupled with a second problem: a shortage of information about the issue at large.

Having been referred to them by a reputable source, I reached out to see if they could help. They were more than eager to reach back, but the extent of assistance they could provide was quite meager. They suggested that I could simply ask the surviving members of the family. No thank you.

Gun tracing is simply locked down to John or Jane Q. Public. If anything strikes me as odd in this pursuit, it is that. If you recall from my first article, I can find out who owns a house, how much they pay in property taxes, who committed a crime, and whose telephone number is on my caller ID. I can track my iPhone and wipe it or lock it remotely. But simply tracing a gun is not possible. This leads me to think The Trace may be onto something. How can we police what we dont know anything about?

It seems the journey of the gun is less important than its final destination. And, perhaps, in similar fashion, the personal is only as important as the politics. So as I conclude my journey on this tragedy, here is where I land. It is NOT okay to not protect our children. It is NOT okay to be irresponsible in gun ownership. There is NOT an acceptable accidental shooting rate when the majority are preventable. Im not suggesting that people should not be allowed to own guns, but I do expect that when they do, they own the responsibility that goes along with it.

Georgia ranks second in the nation for toddler shootings despite being the eighth-least-populated state. They also dont have mandatory gun-lock laws. California and New Yorktwo of the most populated states in our countryhave some form of gun-lock-device law, and have two of the lowest rates of toddler shootings.

Do the math. It isnt difficult.

Amy Mosher-Garvey works with clients at Open Door Center for Change, LLC in Madison (opendoorcfc.com) and is the Director of Account Management for Forward Health Group (forwardhealthgroup.com) .