Holston Cole, age three, shot himself in the chest with his father’s gun on Tuesday morning in Paulding County, Georgia. He is dead now.
Before I go on, here’s a video from his dad’s YouTube channel of Holston flying a kite around the house just days before pulling a semi-automatic pistol out of his dad’s bookbag and shooting himself in the chest with it.
And here, if you can stomach it, is a local news report with the 911 call Holston’s dad made when he found his son with a hole in his chest.
I don’t really know where to begin. I’m a father and I’m not inhuman, so my first reaction is agony for the parents, but that agony very quickly becomes mixed with blood-boiling rage that threatens to overtake the very compassion that motivates my antipathy toward guns in the first place.
You see, if the elder Cole had shot himself in the chest with his stupid fucking gun, there wouldn’t be much ambiguity in my response. Good riddance, idiot. Paging Dr. Darwin. But he didn’t shoot himself in the chest with his stupid fucking gun, his beloved three-year old son, Holston, did.
He probably thought he was protecting Holston by having that gun handy and he probably held fast to that view in spite of all available evidence to the contrary; in spite of seeing regular news reports about other kids shooting themselves or others with their parents’ guns. And I have no doubt that he thought of himself as a responsible gun owner—just as all gun owners do until the moment they’re not.
So what the fuck am I supposed to feel right now? What the fuck are any of us supposed to feel? Are we supposed to just tweet a frowny face and write it off as yet another unavoidable tragedy? Are we supposed to ignore it as a private misfortune that doesn’t concern us? Are we supposed to allow our agony for a parent to overwhelm our righteous indignation over the pointless death of a three-year old?
You know, here’s the thing: If this guy had left his son in a car on a hot day, I’d feel nothing but grief and sympathy because anyone is capable of making a tragic mistake. This just isn’t that simple. Yes, leaving the gun unsecured and accessible to the child was a tragic mistake, but having a deadly fucking weapon in the home in the first place—an object that has as its sole purpose the tearing apart of flesh and bone—adds a layer of irresponsibility that cannot be brushed aside in light of the mountain of evidence that doing so makes your family less safe, not more safe.
The family has asked for prayers. Well, my “prayer” preceded Holston’s death by gun. It was an appeal not to any higher power, but to the sensibility of my fellow citizens to stop it already with the fucking guns.