Last Monday, May 15th, 7-year old Gage Meche was accidentally shot at Moss Bluff Elementary School in Louisiana. A 7-year old student had brought a handgun to school that morning. It fell out of his backpack and a second elementary student picked up the gun and fired it, hitting Meche in the stomach. After undergoing several hours of surgery at Lafayette General Hospital, the 7-year old is in stable condition.
Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said that neither the student who brought the gun, nor the student who accidentally fired the gun will be held responsible for the accident due to their age.
On Thursday, May 18th, Michael Lane Dugas, 50, and Jake Abram Dugas, 17, both of Moss Bluff, were charged with negligent injuring. Michael Dugas is also charged with improper supervision of a minor
"Unfortunately they are misdemeanors," Mancuso said. "But it is what we can charge them with."
Reading that quote it appears that Mancuso wishes he could charge them with something more. I'm curious if he ever pushed for tougher sentencing in the past, but here is what he said right after the shooting.
“I’m a pro-gun advocate, and I believe in the Second Amendment that allows us to possess and carry firearms. However, I also believe that it is our responsibility as gun owners to keep our guns locked and out of the reach of children.”
-- Sheriff Tony Mancuso
Instead of questioning the misdemeanor charges for the parent and the older brother he defended "gun rights." (Which, by the way, always sounds bizarre to me. Do we have car rights? Hammer rights? We are told those are tools, just like guns, but they don't have rights.)
Here is Sheriff Tony Mancuso's quote from later in the week after Michael Lane Dugas and Jake Abram Dugas were arrested.
"I don't think there's any two people in this country that support gun rights as much as our district attorney and myself do," Mancuso said. "I think if you're a law-abiding citizen and you want to own a gun, you should be able to do so ... or as many guns as you want to. We live in the United States of America, the greatest country in the world and that's one of the given rights that we have - our Second Amendment right, but you know what, we've also got to protect our children."
--Sheriff Tony Mancuso Full video link, quote at 5:57 from
Why is it more important for the Sheriff to reassure people of his pro-gun credentials than the safety of the children in his community? And what does he mean when he says "our responsibility as gun owners?"
When I hear that phrase I want to ask, "What exactly does your 'responsibility as a gun owner' mean to you?"
Here are some questions for the sheriff:
- Have you supported laws that required gun owners to keep guns locked and out of reach of children? If not, why not?
- Going forward will you support gun storage laws? If someone doesn't follow them, and there is a death or injury, do you support felony charges? Remember, you just complained that you could only charge the father and son with a misdemeanor.
- It has been reported that Gage was transported via air ambulance to Lafayette General hospital where a team of four doctors, including two trauma surgeons, a cardiovascular surgeon and a general surgery resident spent several hours working on him.
If Dugas has no insurance, who will be financial responsible for Gage's flight, surgery costs, a week in ICU and the subsequent rehabilitation? What if Gage has a pre-existing condition because of this gun shot wound? Should that be grounds for him being denied insurance in the future?
(NOTE: Anyone who wishes to help the family with medical care expenses can donate at any Jeff Davis Bank to the account labeled “MBE First Grade Student. For an update on Gage here is a link to Gage's Road to Recovery Facebook page.
When the sheriff makes editorial comments about the shooting he is talking to his base, whom he believes have the same understanding about the responsibility as gun owners as he does. But do they? To find out I would ask a few more questions of him.
As a sheriff you have liability insurance for a gun accident provided by the government (State, county, or city). What are the financial limits of that policy?
- Do you know how much the annual premiums are for that policy? Do you know how often the state has had to pay out? Who can I talk to who knows about these costs?
- Would the government insurance you have cover a similar incident if it involved your gun and one of your children? If not, do you have personal liability insurance that would cover this kind of incident? What are the limits of that policy? Does it have one time limits and lifetime caps for medical care for someone like Gage?
I'm sure if I asked all of those questions I would be told, "My personal liability insurance is none of your business, and I don't see how it is relevant to this case." But he is the one who has identified himself as a pro-gun activist and talks about responsibility. Shouldn't financial responsibility in an incident like this be the responsibility of gun owners? If not, whose responsibility should it be? His community?
Should the community have the right to pass laws that require gun owners to take precautions to protect their children?
Should the community have the right to pass laws that require gun owners be financially responsible for gun accidents?
If the gun owners won't pay, who does? The community. Taxpayers end up picking up the cost, so shouldn't the community have the right to pass laws to cover those costs?
Now I know all about the difference between the right to do something and the ability to do it.
I've seen first hand how hard the NRA pushes at the state level to remove any laws that can be broken by gun owners, and immunize them from the consequences of their actions. That includes the consequences of lax storage of deadly weapons. However, if a community decides they want to do something, like hold gun owners criminally or financially responsible for their actions, the NRA takes steps to stop them.
If Moss Bluff, or any city in the Parish, wanted to create a ordinance to regulate guns, they could not. The gun lobby got a state law passed that forbids it.
(BTW, I am NOT talking about intentional gun violence by people using guns illegally, but about gun accidents from legally purchased guns. as is the case here.)
Speaking of the state level, here are a few examples of the lax Louisiana gun laws
- Louisiana has no law that prohibits allowing a child access to firearms.
- Louisiana has no law requiring firearm owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm.
- Louisiana also does not require firearm owners to lock their weapons.
Those were all laws that state legislators have decided not to pass. Maybe they were brought up by a community, but were shot down at the state level by the gun lobby.
I get that the gun lobby can convince their own people that being a "responsible gun owner" is a good idea and that it should be voluntary.
But I don't agree with this notion that responsibility is voluntary, I think it should be mandatory, with consequences for failures.
But what I think gun owners' responsibilities should be might be different than what locals think. But what if someone from the community wanted to push for a law mandating safe storage of guns in this community?
What if they pushed for one requiring gun locks?
What if someone wanted to get a law passed making it a felony if guns are not stored safely? (Which could reduce unintentional shooting deaths by 23% )
What if they proposed a law mandating gun owners have liability insurance? What if they represented fiscally responsible voter who want to require responsible gun owners to pay for their mistakes?
Apparently Louisiana has plenty of money to pay for the cost of gun accidents. They must, look at the gun law they DID pass.
Annual Louisiana Second Amendment Weekend Tax Holiday!
This is really a brilliant financial con by the gun lobby. First they shifted the financial responsibility of gun accidents from their owners to the public, then they got a bill passed where no state taxes are collected on guns and ammo sales for an entire weekend. Genius! This was passed in 2009 and is still planned for 2017. I wonder how much revenue the state loses each year? Revenue that could be used to pay for state health care to the victims of gun accidents.
I've learned that there is someone in this community who is the perfect position to make some changes.
Office: Phone: (337)491-2315 Fax: (337)855-8285
I know it often seems like citizens can do nothing when their state representatives don't feel something impacts them personally, but in this case, the shooting should be VERY personal for Dwight.
The question is what will he do? Hopefully propose laws requiring safe storage of guns and making it a felony if the law is broken. But I've seen that showing people how this saves children's lives isn't enough. To get other legislators on board he will also have to show them that it is financially irresponsible to NOT require gun owners to have liability insurance.
The standard line of, 'But criminals don't follow laws! They don't have insurance!" will be used. He needs to remind them this isn't FOR criminals. It's for the good people with guns who make mistakes. This needs to come from the community. They want to help but not everyone can sell enough t-shirts to pay for all the costs following a gunshot.
There is a LOT more to this shooting, but for now I wanted to focus on the financial costs of a single gun accident, and all the steps that gun owners could require of themselves and their gun-owning community to be more responsible, but don't.