Saturday, May 4, 2013

2-year-old girl killed with 'my first rifle'

American man and boy out hunting with shotguns, circa 1955. FPG/Getty Images
A story on the NPR website (National Public Radio) on 2nd May shows just what gun control advocates in the US are up against. 

It's prompted by the shooting death of a 2-year-old girl in Kentucky at the hands of her 5-year-old brother, which has opened up yet another US debate about gun control. The headline is “When It Comes To Guns, How Young Is Too Young?” and it's prefaced by the black and white 1955 picture of the all-American man and boy.

The image of a woman holding a pink .22-caliber youth rifle in a firearms shop illustrates the type of gun used in the shooting. It's marketed to children as 'my first rifle' and comes in a variety of colours.

The story starts with: “While no one favors the idea of 5-year-olds using weapons without supervision, there is no consensus on the appropriate age to start hands-on training with firearms.”  A gun rights advocate is quoted, without comment, saying "Many people who have firearms familiarize their kids with firearms early on, because they want them to know that this is not something to be trifled with."

The reader comments dwell on state versus parental responsibility and compare marketing guns to kids with sugary and fatty foods. My bĂȘte noir expression “nanny state” crops up.

It's worth taking the time to read the full story and the reader comments.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I visit passage tombs in the Boyne Valley

With Cork Astronomy Club last weekend to Newgrange (top photo) in the Boyne Valley. A passage tomb - a vast mound covering a passage of stone slabs, and a chamber where cremated remains were interred. Older than the pyramids of Egypt. You can stand under a 5000 year old roof, as good today as the day it was built.

Am penning an essay which will include the regrettable reconstruction by O’Kelly in the 1970’s, why passage tombs were not observatories, why neolithic farmers didn't need calendars to tell them when to plant, and why I was unconvinced by a film at the visitor centre suggesting the builders of Newgrange believed they had to propitiate the sun-god to prevent it disappearing entirely in midwinter.

At Loughcrew several passage tombs are built at the top of a high hill (bottom photo - yes I'm afraid that old codger is me). I'm not clear if they had to haul the stones up the hill, or did they find them at the top?