The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

December 13, 2012

Boy's death is bigger than gun debate

By Nick Hildebrand
Herald News Editor/Weekends

---- — The death of Craig Allen Loughrey is a tragedy, pure and simple, but the magnitude of it demands more than that pithy observation.

The 7-year-old Fredonia boy was shot when his father’s handgun went off Saturday morning in the parking lot of a Mercer area gun shop. He died in his booster seat.

My son is 7 and I couldn’t help but think of him when I read Craig’s obituary. Max loves super heroes and ninjas, too, and the thought of his light being snuffed out drove home the pain and loss that Craig’s family is feeling now.

My son has his whole life in front of him. Craig doesn’t anymore.

The shooting was an accident. Accidents happen. We all know that, but there are some who are heaping scorn on Craig’s father, who thought the handgun he was stowing in the console of his pickup was empty when it went off.

A round was left in the chamber, a single bullet unaccounted for when he unloaded the pistol. It was a mistake. A common one, according to police investigating the shooting and the online community that is quick to draw conclusions, take sides, lay blame and exercise 20-20 hindsight.

When I think of Craig’s dad, I don’t see an irresponsible gun owner, I see a father who has lost his son. He deserves sympathy and comfort and understanding.

He will need it now and forever. What he should or shouldn’t have done before his son was shot is irrelevant.

This story has gone viral, picked up in newspapers across the country, filling time on TV broadcasts and cable news, and posted on hundreds of websites.

Not surprisingly, it’s been taken up by those who support gun control and those who oppose it. The old arguments are trotted out. “Guns kill people.” “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  

Both sides are right, both sides are wrong, and the death of one little boy in a gravel parking lot in western Pennsylvania isn’t going to resolve that yin-yang argument.

The urge to find some lesson in Craig’s death is strong, but whatever it is, it hasn’t come to me yet.

This story isn’t an indictment of gun ownership or an isolated incident. It’s something real that happened to real people in a real place and to use it as a cudgel to beat down those you disagree with disrespects the pain that those who know and love Craig feel.

They probably aren’t looking for a larger meaning right now. The empty space left by the loss of their beautiful little boy is probably big enough for them.



Nick Hildebrand is The Herald’s News Editor/Weekend. Contact him at nhildebrand@sharonherald.com