When Kids Pull the Trigger: 2017 Injuries and Deaths due to Negligent Firearm Storage

Every year in America, hundreds of children pick up an irresponsibly stored firearm and pull the trigger.  These shootings are not accidents. They are preventable tragedies. They are the direct result of an adult gun owner’s negligence and irresponsibility.  Below is a summary of the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance report of 2017 incidents.  You can download the full report here.  

2017 INCIDENT SUMMARY

JANUARY 1, 2017 THROUGH DECEMBER 31, 2017

133 children killed

215 children injured

5 adults killed

11 adults injured

OFTEN, CHILDREN UNINTENTIONALLY SHOOT THEMSELVES:

105 children unintentionally shot and injured themselves

67 children unintentionally shot and killed themselves

BUT, IN MANY CASES, CHILDREN UNINTENTIONALLY SHOOT SOMEONE ELSE:

85 children unintentionally shot and injured another child

51 children unintentionally shot and killed another child

11 children unintentionally shot and injured an adult

5 children unintentionally shot and killed an adult

4 children unintentionally shot and injured themselves and another child

2 children unintentionally shot one child and killed another child

2 children unintentionally shot two children

IN SOME CASES, A CHILD IS UNINTENTIONALLY KILLED WHILE OTHER CHILDREN ARE PRESENT, BUT DETAILS ON WHO PULLED THE TRIGGER ARE NOT REPORTED BY THE MEDIA. IN SOME CASES, A GUN IS FIRED BUT THERE ARE NO INJURIES:

23 incidents where children were unintentionally shot, and either injured or killed, but circumstances were unclear.

2 children unintentionally fired a gun but did not injure themselves or anyone else.

OF THE CHILDREN WHO UNINTENTIONALLY SHOT ANOTHER PERSON:

54 children unintentionally shot a sibling. 

21 children unintentionally shot and killed a sibling

33 children unintentionally shot and injured a sibling

Youngest victims were a 17-month-old shot and injured by 3-year-old sibling and a 1- year-old fatally shot by a sibling described as a “young child under age 6.”

10 of the shooters were toddlers under age 4.

79 children unintentionally shot a friend. 

43 of the shooters were under age 15.

Youngest victim was a 1-year-old shot in the face by a 2-year-old who was visiting the baby’s home with a parent.

3 children unintentionally shot a parent.

The 2-year-old child of a police officer in Texas found a loaded gun in a bag in the family’s laundry room shot and injured his mother with it.

A 4-year-old boy in Missouri shot and killed his father.  The child’s mother and four other siblings were present at the time of the shooting.

A 2-year-old toddler toddler shot his 27-year-old father in the neck Saturday afternoon. The shooting happened while the boy was handling the firearm in a bed where his father was sleeping.

19 children unintentionally shot a grandparent, cousin, or other family member.

Of those 19 incidents, 8 resulted in the death of a child and 1 resulted in the death of an adult, a grandparent.

WHERE THE INCIDENTS HAPPEN

THESE TYPES OF SHOOTINGS ARE MORE COMMON IN SOME STATES  THAN OTHERS:

31 occurred in Tennessee, resulting in the deaths of 13 children

23 occurred in Texas, resulting in the deaths of 12 children

21 occurred in Florida, resulting in the death of 9 children

21 occurred in Mississippi, resulting in the death of 8 children

19 occurred in Georgia, resulting in the death of 7 children

18 occurred in Missouri, resulting in the death of 7 children

17 occurred in South Carolina,

16 occurred in Pennsylvania

14 occurred  in Alabama

14 occurred in Kentucky

14 occurred in Louisiana

13 occurred in Ohio

12 occurred in North Carolina

THESE TYPES OF SHOOTINGS ARE MORE COMMON IN SOME CITIES THAN OTHERS:

14 occurred in Memphis, Tennessee

8 occurred in St. Louis, Missouri

6 occurred in Chicago, Illinois

6 occurred in Nashville, Tennessee

6 occurred in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

5 occurred in Birmingham, Alabama

5 occurred in Jacksonville, Florida

5 occurred in Kansas City, Missouri

THE AGES OF THE SHOOTERS

OF ALL THE CHILDREN WHO PULLED A TRIGGER AND UNINTENTIONALLY SHOT THEMSELVES OR SOMEONE ELSE IN 2017:

61 were toddlers (age 0 through age 3)

54 were preschoolers (age 4 through age 6)

21 were elementary age (age 7 through age 9)

54 were tweens (age 10 through age 12)

65 were young teens (age 13 through age 15)

52 were older teens (age 16 through age 17)

49 were children whose age or other detail was not included in news reports.

UNINTENTIONAL SHOOTINGS BY MONTH

THE NUMBER OF THESE INCIDENTS VARIES BY MONTH:

22 occurred in January 2017
(22 shootings over 31 days; average of 1 shooting every 1.41 days)

23 occurred in February 2017
(23 shootings over 28 days; average of 1 shooting every 1.22 days)

27 occurred in March  2017
(27 shootings over 31 days; average of 1 shooting every 1.15 days)

26 occurred in April 2017
(26 shootings over 30 days; average of 1 shooting every 1.15 days)

38 occurred in May  2017
(38 shootings over 31 days; average of 1 shooting every .82 days)

36 occurred in June 2017
(36 shootings over 31 days; average of 1 shooting every .83 days)

29 occurred in July 2017
(29 shootings over 31 days; average of 1 shooting every 1.07 days)

39 occurred in August 2017
(39 shootings over 31 days; average of 1 shooting every .79 days)

32 occurred in September  2017
(32 shootings over 30 days; average of 1 shooting every .94 days)

27 occurred in October 2017
(27 shootings over 31 days; average of 1 shooting every 1.15 days)

29 occurred in November 2017
(29 shootings over 30 days; average of 1 shooting every 1.03 days)

29 occurred in December 2017
(28 shootings over 31 days; average of 1 shooting every 1.07 days)

UNINTENTIONAL SHOOTINGS BY MONTH

2017 INCIDENTS VS 2016 INCIDENTS

THE NUMBER OF INCIDENTS, INJURIES, AND FATALITIES FOR 2017 WERE HIGHER THAN IN 2016:

* Sometime a single shooting incident injures or kills multiple people, therefore there are more incidents than deaths and injuries.

Between 2016 and 2017, there was a noticeable increase in the number of deaths and an alarming increase in the number of injuries attributed to children with access to irresponsibly stored firearms. While some injuries are minor, many are not. A bullet ripping through the body of a young child can lead to lasting injuries, lifelong disability and permanent disfiguration.  Often, the only difference between injury or death is a matter of centimeters or how soon the victim receives medical attention.

The rising number of these types of shootings seem to be following an alarming trend.  According to 2015 data, the total number of people unintentionally shot and injured or killed by children was 265. In 2017, the number was 364, an increase of nearly 100 in just two years.

FREQUENCY OF INCIDENTS

One way of understanding the how often these shootings happen is by plotting them on a calendar. Below, each day blocked in gray indicates a day with one negligent storage shooting, each day blocked in red indicates a day with two negligent storage shootings, each day blocked in blue indicates a day with three negligent storage shootings, and each day blocked in orange indicates a day with four negligent storage shootings.

WHEN KIDS SHOOT THEMSELVES

A few incidents from this year.  These shootings happen across the country and in families of all backgrounds.  The one common denominator is that they were preventable and the result of an adult’s carelessness.  Any gun in a child’s hand must first pass through the hand of an adult.

JANUARY 12 – COCKE COUNTY, TN
The mother of a 12-year-old boy called EMS to report that her son had shot himself.  Upon arrival, EMS tried to revive the child but he did not survive. No word on whether or not charges were filed.

FEBRUARY 2 – MYRTLE BEACH, SC
A 3-year-old child was killed after gaining access to a loaded gun in the home he shared with his mother and grandfather.  No charges were filed.

MARCH 25 – HIGH POINT, NC
A 2-year-old and his father were sitting on their front porch when the toddler picked up a loaded gun and fired it. He died after from a gunshot wound to his head. No charges have been reported.

APRIL 4 – WICHITA, KS
A boy’s father found his 12-year-old son in his bedroom closet with a gunshot wound to his upper body or head.  The boy died later at  Wichita hospital. It is unclear whether the shooting was unintentional or a suicide.  It is clear that the boy was able to access a loaded firearm.

APRIL 23 – VICKSBURG, MS
While his father slept, a 3-year-old found a loaded gun and fatally shot himself with it. No charges have been reported in the case.

MAY 10 – WINDER, GA
A 9-year-old fatally shot himself not long after arriving home from school.  He was taken to the hospital but did not survive. Investigators were looking into determining whether the shooting was intentional or unintentional.  No word on their findings.

APRIL 23 – VICKSBURG, MS
While his father slept, a 3-year-old found a loaded gun and fatally shot himself with it. No charges have been reported in the case.

MAY 10 – WINDER, GA
A 9-year-old fatally shot himself not long after arriving home from school.  He was taken to the hospital but did not survive. Investigators were looking into determining whether the shooting was intentional or unintentional.  No word on their findings. 

AUGUST 5 – CROWN POINT, IN
A 4-year-old boy unintentionally shot himself with a gun he found at a babysitter’s house.  The boy found the firearm, which was located in a case, in an upstairs bedroom. He did not survive.  Charges are not expected.

AUGUST 28 – SCURRY, TX
While his mother spoke to a serviceman outside the family’s car, a 2-year-old toddler found a small handgun and fatally shot himself with it.  The child’s siblings were also in the car.  The boy was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. An investigation is underway.  No charges have been filed.

SEPTEMBER 14 – TAMPA, FL
A 4-year-old Florida girl died after unintentionally pulling the trigger of a gun when she reached into her grandmother’s purse for candy.  No charges were filed.

DECEMBER 5 – ANCHORAGE, AK
A 5-year-old fatally shot himself with a gun found in the drawer of a bedroom nightstand while his mother was in the kitchen and his father was in another room. Authorities were investigating.  No word on whether or not charges were filed.

WHEN KIDS SHOOT SOMEONE ELSE

Every year, hundreds of kids are unintentionally shot by other kids.  Here are a few examples from this year. Sometimes the shooter and victim are friends, sometimes they are siblings or cousins.  Sometimes the shooting occurs at a friend or relative’s home or in a vehicle.  Parents should always ask how guns are stored any place their child spends time.

FEBRUARY 4 – RIDGELAND, SC
An 11-year-old boy unintentionally shot his 12-year-old brother in the face.  The boys were playing with their mother’s 9mm handgun while she made breakfast.

FEBRUARY 26 – CLIFTON, TN
A 13-year-old and a 12-year-old were playing with a gun found in a family members backpack, and it unintentionally fired, killing the 13-year-old.  The shooting happened at the home of the victim’s aunt and uncle. No charges were filed according to news reports.

MARCH 17 – FORT WORTH, TX
Two 3-year-old boys were exiting a vehicle outside a Chuck-E-Cheese after a birthday party. One found a .380 caliber pistol in the storage area of the passenger door and fired the gun.  It went through his hand and through the other child’s abdomen.

MARCH 26 – OCHELTA, OK
A 15-year-old was showing his 8-year-old cousin a shotgun outside a vehicle and landed the gun against a car tire. It fell to the ground, discharging one round.  The 8-year-old was struck in the abdomen.  He did not survive.  No charges were filed

MAY 15 – CALCASIEU PARISH, LA
A 6-year-old child brought a loaded gun to school and dropped it.  Another child picked up and fired it, striking a nearby 7-year-old.  The 6-year-old’s father and 17-year-old brother were later charged.  The father allowed the teenager to keep the gun loaded and unsecured in the bedroom he shared with is younger brother.

MAY 20 – DES PLAINES, IL
A 10-year-old boy unintentionally shot and killed his 15-year-old brother in the face. No charges were filed.

JUNE 16 – SPARTANBURG, SC
A 4-year-old little girl was unintentionally shot by her 6-year-old sibling who was handling a loaded handgun in the children’s home.  The victim was taken to the hospital but did not survive.  No charges were filed.

SEPTEMBER 23 – ST.LOUIS, MO
A 2-year-old toddler toddler shot and killed his 27-year-old father. The shooting happened while the boy was handling the firearm in a bed where his father was sleeping.

OCTOBER 26 – ALTHEIMER, AR
While home alone, two brothers, one 12-year-old and one 13-years old, were wrestling over a family rifle.  As they were wrestling, the 13-year-old unintentionally shot his younger brother in the neck, killing him.  No charges are expected according to police.

NOVEMBER 7 – KOUNTZE, TX
Two 12-year-old friends were home alone when they got a hunting rifle out of a gun cabinet and began playing with it.  The rifle discharged and struck one of the boys, killing the 6th grader.  No charges have been filed.

DECEMBER 13 – NEW PHILADELPHIA, OH
A 12-year-old was playing with a .20-gauge shotgun in his family’s barn. His 15-year-old brother came into the barn, startling the 12-year-old. The gun went off, hitting the 15-year-old in the chest. He died at the scene.  No charges have been filed.

CONCLUSION

  • Gun violence is complicated.  Keeping guns out of the hands of children is not.
  • Unintentional shootings involving children with access to negligently-stored firearms are 100 percent  preventable and the direct result of an adult’s choice to leave a loaded firearm unsecured and accessible to minors.
  • All children should be taught gun safety and what to do if they encounter a gun. However, no amount of training is a substitute for responsible firearm storage. 
  • Parents must always ask how firearms are stored any place their child plays or spends time, including friends’ homes and the homes of relatives. ASK: Asking Saves Kids.
  • Even children and teens who have experience with firearms can make mistakes or exercise poor judgement.  Guns should be handled only under the supervision of a responsible, trained adult.
  • In the United States, nearly 7 million kids age 18 and under are living in households with loaded and unsecured firearms, setting the scene for possible tragedy if firearms are not responsibly stored.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that from 2007 to 2014, there was a 60 percent increase in kids aged 10 to 17 committing suicide with a firearm. Firearm suicides are unique in both their impulsivity and lethality. Unlike other forms of suicide, firearm suicides require very little planning and are far more likely to be lethal. Most juvenile firearm suicides involve guns from the juvenile’s home.
  • The majority of school shooters use guns from home, guns that
  • A statistically significant association exists between gun availability and the rates of unintentional firearm deaths, homicides, and suicides among 5-14 year olds.
  • Strong child access prevention (CAP) laws are associated with a significant reduction in all, self-inflicted, and unintentional pediatric firearm injuries.
  • Strong child access prevention (CAP) laws have no impact whatsoever on the majority of responsible gun owners who understand the vital importance of storing guns responsibly – secured, locked, and inaccessible to all unauthorized users, especially children.
  • The most important responsibility of every gun owners is to store their firearms responsibly, in their home and in their vehicle.
  • Unintentional shootings are not accidents. They are fully preventable tragedies.
  • Safe storage saves lives.

COPYRIGHT & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Copyright © May 2018 Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance
The Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance (CFSA) is a national organization that advocates for child access prevention and safe storage legislation and provides information to policymakers, journalists, advocates, and the general public.

CFSA is grateful for information obtained from The Gun Violence Archive and The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

To learn more about the the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance, or to make a contribution to help support our work, please visit www.childrensfirearmsafetyalliance.com