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Gun and Shooting Accidents

Accidents and Tragedies

By

Updated January 26, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Childhood gun and shooting accidents are not rare.

They are one of the top ten leading causes of accidental death for all age groups outside of newborns and infants.

In 2007, there were 122 unintentional firearm deaths in children, and an additional 3,060 nonfatal gun and shooting accidents, which resulted in an estimated 1,375 children needing to be hospitalized for their injuries. Unintentional firearm deaths in children have remained at about the same levels since, with 114 deaths in children and teens less than age 18 in 2010.

These gun and shooting accidents, all tragedies, highlight the importance of learning about gun safety and discussing gun safety with your pediatrician.

Gun and Shooting Accidents

Some more recent gun and shooting accidents involving children include:

  • a 17-year-old in Decatur, Tennessee who died after he was unintentionally shot in the head while giving his stepmother a hug, causing the .380-caliber handgun she was holding to fire.
  • a 4-year-old in Detroit, Michigan who died after he was unintentionally shot by his cousin who had found a rifle under a bed while the two were playing in a bedroom.
  • a 2-year-old in Cooper County, Missouri, died after shooting himself in the head with a handgun that "he got a hold of" in his house.
  • a 3-year-old in Loris, South Carolina, near Myrtle Beach, died after shooting himself in the head with a pistol that he found in the car.
  • a 5-year-old in Belleville, Illinois, near St. Louis, was accidentally shot in the head with a shotgun by his 10-year-old brother.
  • a 3-year-old in Maryland Heights, Missouri, near St. Louis, who shot himself once in the chest, died. He found the gun in his parents bedroom, one of whom is a police officer.
  • a 2-year-old was shot in the head by his 5-year-old brother in Connersville, Indiana who was playing with a gun he found in a bedroom. The boy, a twin, died of the gun shot.
  • a 3-year-old in St. Louis, Missouri who died after she shot herself in the head with a gun she found tucked between two mattresses.
  • a 6-year-old who was shot and killed by his 11-year-old stepbrother, in what was initially thought to be an accident, but the boy is now facing possible murder charges. The two boys were left home alone at the time of the shooting in Martinsville, Indiana.
  • a 10-year-old in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi died after he shot himself with his grandfather's gun that he found in his nightstand. He would have been going into the fifth grade next fall.
  • a 15-year-old from Cherry Hill, Baltimore was shot in the head and killed by a 12-year-old friend who was playing with the gun during a sleepover.
  • a 5-year-old from Bossier City, Louisiana found a loaded handgun a cabinet in his home, and accidentally shot and killed himself.
  • a 2-year-old near Fresno, California found a loaded, semi-automatic handgun in his home, walked into a bedroom with the gun, and it fired, striking and killing his 6-year-old sister.
  • a 3-year-old in South Carolina was shot in his upper boy by his uncle who was cleaning his gun when it accidentally fire. The toddler died in emergency surgery.
  • a 2-year-old in Georgia was shot in the back by a 9 or 10-year-old who found a gun in a van they were all playing in while the toddler's family was preparing to move to a new apartment.
  • a 2-year-old in Phoenix was shot in the face with a handgun by her 8-year-old brother, who thought he was playing with a toy gun he found on the floor of his grandfather's apartment.
  • a 3-year-old in Summerville, South Carolina who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to her head after finding a loaded, unsecured handgun on the window sill of her parent's bedroom
  • a 5-year-old in Telferner, Texas who shot his 4-year-old brother in the abdomen with a rifle they were playing with in their home. His brother died from the gun shot wound.
  • a 2-year-old in Missouri who died after he accidentally shot himself in the head after finding a loaded handgun on a shelf in the closet of his parent's bedroom
  • an 11-year-old in Indianapolis who was accidentally shot by his brother
  • three children in Houston who were hurt when a 6-year-old accidentally fired a gun he had brought to school
  • an 8-year-old in Alabama who died from an accidental shotgun blast
  • a 2-year-old in Vermont who died after he was accidentally shot with a rifle by a sibling
  • a 10-year-old who lost use of his right eye after being shot by an older teen cousin while they were playing with a gun that they thought was unloaded
  • a 3-year-old in North Carolina who shot and killed himself
  • a 4-year-old who accidentally shot a 12-year-old in Louisiana while playing with a rifle they found in a closet

As you can see, most gun and shooting accidents involve children who find unsecured, loaded guns around the house.

Gun Safety

Again, to help prevent these types of gun and shooting accidents, learning about gun safety is important.

Unfortunately, many parents don't store their guns safely, even when they have young kids in the home. In fact, one study showed that 85% of parents who owned guns did not practice safe gun storage.

To protect children from gun and shooting accidents, the typical gun safety advice that you will get from your pediatrician includes that you:

  • keep your guns locked
  • keep your guns unloaded
  • keep your ammunition locked
  • keep your ammunition in a separate area from your gun

A safe or lock box are good places to store your unloaded guns and your ammunition. A trigger lock can also provide extra security when you store your unloaded guns in a safe or lock box.

As with other types of child safety, this type of layers of protection plan is the best way to protect children from accidentally finding a loaded gun, or finding a unloaded gun and ammunition and loading it themselves, and then shooting themselves, shooting a family member, or shooting a friend.

Don't count on your child simply knowing what to do if they find a gun. Much to their parent's surprise, one study found that most kids who find a gun will handle it, many will even pull the trigger, being unsure if the gun is real or a toy.

 

Sources:

Carbone PS. Effectiveness of gun-safety counseling and a gun lock giveaway in a Hispanic community. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 01-NOV-2005; 159(11): 1049-54.

Connor SM. The association between presence of children in the home and firearm-ownership and -storage practices. Pediatrics. 01-JAN-2005; 115(1): e38-43

Connor, Susan M. "They're Too Smart for That": Predicting What Children Would Do in the Presence of Guns. Pediatrics, Feb 2003; 111: e109 - e114.

Grossman DC. Gun storage practices and risk of youth suicide and unintentional firearm injuries. JAMA - 9-FEB-2005; 293(6): 707-14

Howard PK. Parents' beliefs about children and gun safety. Pediatr Nurs - 01-SEP-2005; 31(5): 374-9

Jackman, Geoffrey A. Seeing Is Believing: What Do Boys Do When They Find a Real Gun? Pediatrics, Jun 2001; 107: 1247 - 1250.

Narang P. Do guns provide safety? At what cost? South Med J - 01-FEB-2010; 103(2): 151-3

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. WISQARS Nonfatal Injury Reports and Injury Mortality Reports. Accessed December 2012.

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