Adult leaves gun lying around. Child finds gun. Child wants to be like cool guy in movies. Child pulls trigger. Child dies.
That is the recurring theme of incidents that happen all too often in America. This is the gun violence that is often overlooked in furious debates online. This sort of thing is barely even a crime in many states in the U.S.
The day before Mother’s Day this year, a six-year-old boy in Gary, Indiana shot his three-year-old sister after finding a gun left in the car where he and his sister were left alone for a few minutes outside of their daycare. The little girl survived after she was struck in the hand. Six inches to the center and instead of getting cute little hand prints or a macaroni necklace for Mother’s Day, the girl’s mother could have been pricing out a tiny coffin and popping tranquilizers like M&M’s just so she can stop, if only for a few hours, feeling the bottomless razor-sharp pain that comes with grieving the “accidental” death of a child. Luckily, this story did not end so tragically.
Pages on Facebook like Responsible Gun Owner of the Day remind us that gun tragedy strikes every single day in the U.S. and all too often involves children.
After reading about this latest “accident,” I was curious to find out just how many kids have died in similar circumstances, either shooting themselves or another child after finding a firearm carelessly left about in their environments this year alone.
Here are some quick statistics on gun violence for 2015:
Gunviolencearchive.org shows 221 children, ages 0-11, have been injured or killed in shootings so far this year. Children ages 12-17 killed or injured this year alone stands at 798 shootings.This number includes children who are shot by adults who are cleaning their weapons, intentional shootings or are innocent bystanders in domestic violence spats. The total number of incidents involving guns 16,635 and deaths from firearms for all age groups is at 4,432 in just 131 days in the U.S. alone.
That is an average of 33 people killed per day by guns.
An average of 8 children, ages 0-17, are injured or killed by guns every single day.
How many times were guns used defensively by the average citizen so far this year? 432 times. That is an average of 1.2 times per day a gun is used legally and properly.
To put this into perspective, one person died in the U.S. last year of Ebola and it’s all the public talked about on the news for months. Can you imagine if 33 people died of Ebola per day in America? The panic would be astounding! Consider also that in Africa, Ebola related deaths totaled 11,007 spanning three countries in 2014 and the total number of deaths in the U.S. were 12,523 in 2014, meaning we have a gun violence epidemic in our country that the public is barely willing to discuss.
Deaths from children (ages 0-17) killing themselves or others:
January 5: An unnamed 16-year-old male was killed by his sisters ages 15 and 11 in a premeditated murder plot in White Springs, GA. The girls have been arrested for 1st degree murder and are awaiting trial. The parents were also charged with neglect for failing to supervise their kids. It is unknown where the girls got the firearm. A three-year-old was also home at the time of the murder.
January 12: An unnamed 15-year-old was accidentally shot and killed by his 15-year-old friend after the two found a loaded shotgun and started playing with it when the gun accidentally discharged and hit the teen in the chest in Greensboro, N.C.
January 21: Kaleb Ahle, 2, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest after finding his father’s gun in the glove box of his family’s vehicle in East Lake, FL. Police say the father took reasonable measures for keeping the gun away from his child and no charges were filed.
February 27: An unnamed three-year-old boy died after shooting himself in the head in Harris County, TX after finding a loaded gun in his mother’s purse that was on a high shelf. There were also a 1- and 7-year-old present in the home.
March 29: Jaxon White, 3, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Jefferson, GA after finding and playing with loaded gun. No charges have been filed.
March 31: Kendal Pinkerton, 2, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in Madison, TN after playing a loaded handgun. No charges were filed.
April 10: Ezra Ryan Jackson, 16, killed by 17-year-old friend who was handling a gun when the gun accidentally discharged in Houston, TX. The teen has been charged with manslaughter.
April 19: Dakota Washington, 16, was killed by a 15-year-old male in Victorville, CA, who was playing around with a loaded gun when it accidentally discharged, striking Dakota in the chest. The teen has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.
April 29: Rasheem Scriven, 1, was killed by 15-year-old male in Augusta, GA who was playing with a gun when the weapon accidentally discharged striking Rasheem in the head. The teen has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
May 1: Dante Jones, 13, was killed by a teenage male (exact age not identified) who is suspected of playing with a gun when it accidentally discharged in Klamath, CA. The teen has been charged with manslaughter.
There is limited data available for January and February. These are just deaths alone, meaning there are hundreds more shootings involving children where they either injured themselves or another child that I have not included in this list.
What do all these incidences have in common? Besides taking place overwhelmingly in the south and “gun-friendly” states these incidents could have all been avoided had adults taken proper precautions to secure their firearms away from children. While teenagers should technically know better, consider also that the frontal lobe of the human brain (specifically the pre-frontal cortex) doesn’t fully develop until a person reaches their early 20’s. The frontal lobe is responsible for judgement and reasoning, which means teenagers should also be kept away from firearms unless they are under the watchful eye of an adult.
The NRA fights legislation designed to encourage parents to lock away their guns when kids are in the home
In some cases, parents or adults who owned the guns children used in these “accidents” were charged with neglect or child endangerment. That is because many states have recognized that guns in the home should be locked away safely, but the NRA is strongly against legislation like that.
An old study by The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence found that 12 states with childhood access prevention laws actually lowered accidental child deaths by 23 percent between 1990 and 1994.
Currently only 13 states have strong childhood access prevention laws, 14 states have weak childhood access prevention laws and the remaining 23 states have no such laws on the books.
According to a study done by Everytown in an article called “Innocents Lost: A Year of Unintentional Child Gun Deaths” found that between December 2012 and December 2013, at least 100 children died in unintentional shootings — nearly two per week on average.
Highlights from this report also show:
- About two-thirds of these unintended deaths — 65 percent — took place in a home or vehicle that belonged to the victim’s family, most often with guns that were legally owned but not secured.
- More than two-thirds of these tragedies could be avoided if gun owners stored their guns responsibly and prevented children from accessing them.
Perhaps a gun owner would think twice if prison were on the table for leaving their guns lying around with children around? Because dead children certainly isn’t enough for these gun owners to think twice.
The NRA doesn’t think so. After an incident involving a 5-year-old boy shooting his 2-year-old sister last year with a gun designed for children, Cam Edwards, NRA news host, went on the attack saying the media was blowing the incident out of proportion and saying that laws wouldn’t make an impact on childhood deaths as he pointed to suffocation and other ways children die. Despite his efforts, and the NRA’s efforts to stop the CDC from studying gun violence and children, gun violence remains one of the top five killers of all children. Edwards, however, contends that the horror of losing a child is punishment enough, but the NRA has no answer as to how to stop this horror from occurring.
To find out how you can get involved in stopping the NRA from lobbying against childhood access prevention laws in your state or others, click here.
Featured Image: NBC News