At the top is a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic pistol. Below, the WiiAuto Pistol. Mistaking the former for the latter, three-year-old Cheyenne Alexis McKeehan of Wilson County, Tennessee, shot and killed herself Sunday evening. Where does the blame lie?
We reported on the accidental shooting death of Cheyenne Alexis McKeehan yesterday, mainly due to the fact that the initial reports indicated the girl mistook a real pistol, left on a living room table by her stepfather, for a gun-shaped Wii controller. In our experience, Wii gun controllers are generally white, blue, or orange, in order to avoid exactly this sort of situation.
The WiiAuto Pistol is a cheap bit of plastic manufactured by the HAIHONGCHANG Electronics Company in China, available for purchase via various web sites and on eBay. I've seen the peripheral go for anywhere for $7 to $15, so not only is it coloring realistic, it's cheap as well.
We've reached out to the manufacturer regarding this story, and would update should we receive a response.
Further details have arisen about the case itself as well. The child's stepfather, Douglas Cronberger, had been checking for trespassers using the gun, and not scaring off dogs, as originally reported. Both Cronberger and his wife, Tina Ann Cronberger, were home at the time of the shooting, with the mother working on the computer a few feet away from where Cheyenne played.
A police statement noted that Cheyenne had learned to use a gun by playing with the Wii for several days.
There are several things that strike me odd about this case, but I'm not here to speculate. The fact of the matter is that I can now see how the child could have mistaken the real gun for the toy. Free from American manufacturing and product approval restraints, the Chinese manufacturer created a very convincing facsimile of a real weapon, especially when fitted with a black Wii remote.
That doesn't make them responsible for this death.
There is a very clear message in this story. If you own a handgun, or a gun of any kind, make sure you're responsible enough to keep it away from children. The presence of a lifelike gun controller for the Wii doesn't shift blame to Nintendo or a Chinese peripheral manufacturer. If anything, it piles more responsibility onto the shoulders of the parents. I can walk into any big electronics store and find two or three Wii gun controllers in several different shades of unrealistic gaudiness.
Instead of purchasing one of those, someone opted for the more realistic model, just like someone opted to leave a loaded weapon within reach of a curious three-year-old child with a notion that gun-shaped objects are fun to play with.
We've reached out to both Nintendo and the Wilson County Sheriff's Department for comment on this story, but no response was received as of publishing time.