For most families with kids and teens, May is an exciting month. Kids are planning graduations and proms, parents are planning vacations. The weather is warming up and parents and kids alike look forward to summer. But for at least three dozen families, May was a month of tragedy after their children came in contact with loaded, negligently stored firearms.
In May, a month with 31 days, at least 37 children pulled a trigger and unintentionally shot themselves or another person. Each month this year, the number of these incidents has ticked up by one to two shootings, but in May, the number went up by nine. There were several days in May where there were multiple shootings involving kids with access to irresponsibly stored firearms.
Incidents by month:
(For comparison, there were 23 incidents in May of 2016.)
Of the 37 incidents in May:
3 adults were injured
24 children were injured
10 children were killed
The youngest shooter was an 18-month-old in Tennessee who shot himself in the face.
Of the 37 incidents in May:
22 of the shooters were under the age of 13
12 children shot a friend, 3 were killed
2 children shot a sibling, 1 was killed.
These types of shootings are very rare in some states. For example, between 2014 and 2016, Massachusetts, a state with safe storage laws, saw only 1 incident of a child fatally shot with an irresponsibly stored gun. On the other end of the spectrum, these shootings occur with alarming regularity in other states.
Of the 37 incidents in May, over half occurred in just five states:
In May, there were 30 states where there was not a single unintentional shooting involving a child with access to unsecured guns.
Throughout 2017, there are some states with higher numbers of incidents:
South Carolina: 9
The numbers for 2017 are up from 2016. Between January 1, 2016 and May 31, 2016, we logged 129 incidents. Between January 1, 2017 and May 31, 2017, we logged 138.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Each one of these shootings was preventable. Every gun in a child’s hand must first pass through an adult. Gun violence is a complicated issue, but keeping guns stored responsibly is not complicated. There are a number of policies and recommendations that have been shown to reduce the number of these preventable tragedies.
States with child access prevention and safe storage laws experience fewer of these types of shootings. Adult gun owners should be held responsible when their choice to leave a loaded gun unsecured results in a child’s injury or death. Laws that operate as a deterrent, such as DUI laws, work. While they may not prevent every incidents, they will prevent some and that’s significant, especially when prevention means fewer children shot and killed.
Parents must be educated about the vital importance of storing guns responsibly. The most important responsibility of a gun owner, especially a gun owner with children, is to make absolutely certain that their gun does not end up in the wrong hands, including the hands of curious toddlers and young kids as well as tween and teens who are prone to making bad decisions.
Parents must ask how guns are stored any place their child plays or spends time, whether it is a friend’s house or the home of a relative. Even if you store your guns responsibly (or don’t even have guns), never assume that other parents or family members do likewise. This may especially be true of friends and relatives who don’t have children. While it may feel awkward to ask, it’s better than losing a child.
Pediatricians should be allowed to – and encouraged to – ask parents how they store firearms. This should be as routine as asking parents about car seats, pool safety, or smoke detectors.
Talk to your children about firearms and what to do if they encounter them. Children should be taught not to ever touch or handle a gun unless they are under the direct supervision of an adult. Even if you don’t have guns, it’s still important for your kids to know what to do if they find one at a friend’s house or if a friend tries to to show them one that belongs to a parent or family member. HOWEVER, do not ever assume that teaching your children about gun safety is enough to keep them safe from an unintentional shooting. IT IS NOT. The onus on keeping kids safe is 100% on the adults in their lives. Simply telling a child “Stop. Don’t Touch. Tell an adult” is not an effective way of preventing these shootings. Numerous hidden camera studies conducted by behavioral psychologists have shown that kids, young kids through tweens and teens, are still very likely to pick up and handle a gun even after being trained to not touch and alert an adult.
These incidents are not accidents. They are 100% preventable. Each and every one is the fault of an adult’s negligence and carelessness. Safe storage saves lives. Period.
Using data from the Gun Violence Archive and news alerts, The Children’s Firearms Safety Alliance tracks shootings involving children with access to unsecured and loaded guns. All incidents are logged into a searchable database
CHILDREN INJURED OR KILLED IN MAY AS A RESULT OF IRRESPONSIBLY STORED FIREARMS
May 30 – Chickasha, OK
13-year-old Andrew White was fatally shot in the chest while at a friend’s house. The police reported it to be a homicide but that they were not looking for suspects. The young boy’s family said the shooting was accidental. The boy was just days away from his 14th birthday.
May 29 – St. Petersburg, FL
Several children, supervised by a teen, were playing with a gun they found. A 11-year-old boy thinking the gun was unloaded unintentionally shot a 10-year-old boy in the shoulder and arm.
May 29 – London, KY
A 15-year-old girl riding in the back of a car unintentionally shot the 16-year-old female driver in the back. The 25-year-old gun owner was in the car with the girls and was charged with unlawfully allowing a minor to possess a gun.
May 27 – Yukon, OK
A 2-year-old boy found a gun in his home and shot and injured himself in the head.
May 24 – Springfield, IL
A 13-year-old girl was unintentionally shot in the stomach by a 12-year-old boy at their grandmothers house. She later died. The boy could be charged with unlawful use of a weapon and reckless conduct.
May 23 – Tacoma, WA
A 16-year-old cleaning his gun unintentionally fired it, striking a 18-year-old male in the cheek. A nearby school lockdown occurred until it was determined where the gunfire came from.
May 23 – Milwaukee, WI
A 2-year-old found his father’s loaded gun and unintentionally shot himself. The father of the child was arrested and could face charges.
May 22 – San Angelo, TX
A 3-year-old found a loaded handgun in a sofa and unintentionally shot himself in the face.
May 20 – Lafayette, IN
A 17-year-old cleaning a high powered rifle unintentionally firing it, hitting a 14-year-old girl sleeping in an apartment three apartments away.
May 20 – Campbellsville, KY
A 13-year-old boy playing with a gun unintentionally shot a 12-year-old friend. They thought it was a toy gun.
May 20 – Des Plain, IL
A 10-year-old boy unintentionally shot his 15-year-old brother in the face. He lated died.
May 18 – Clark County, WA
A 16-year-old unintentionally shot a 19-year-old friend in the leg. The victim is expected to survive. The shooter was charged with reckless endangerment, unlawful possession of firearm and theft of firearm.
May 17 – Fresno, CA
An 11-year-old boy was babysitting his younger brother at a home when he found a gun under a bed. He fired the weapon, striking his brother in the leg. The 4-year-old was taken to the hospital for treatment. He is expected to be okay.
May 17 – Jacksonville, FL
A 2-year-old was handling a loaded, unsecured gun and shot himself in the arm. The child’s cousin was babysitting him at the time and has been taken into custody. No word on what she will be charged with.
May 17 – Nashville, TN
A man was bathing his children around 2am. He took the 1-year-old out and placed him on a bed and left the room, The child found a loaded gun on the bed and fired it, grazing his face. The father was charged.
May 16 – Bend, OR
A girl took the gun from her house to familiarize herself with it, and accidentally fired it while trying to “manipulate” the gun. She was treated at the scene then airlifted to a nearby hospital. No criminal charges have been filed in the case.
May 16 – St. Louis, MO
A 6-year-old suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Authorities believe that the injury was self-inflicted and unintentional. Adults and other children were home at the time.
May 15 – Orange County, VA
A 4-year-old boy shot and killed himself Monday afternoon with a gun he found at a residential child care provider, which is also the home of a Stafford County Deputy Sheriff.
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.
May 14 – Houston, TX
Two 9-year-olds were playing with a loaded 9mm gun when it discharged, striking one of the boys in the neck. The boy’s family claims the gun was locked but that the 9-year-olds were able to break it.
May 13 – Goshen, IN
Two 15-year-olds were handling a gun, when one of the teens accidentally shot the other in the stomach. The injured boy was airlifted and underwent surgery. He’s expected to recover.
May 12 – Nashville, TN
A 3-year-old child was staying with a man and his wife when he found a loaded, unsecured gun in a bedroom and fired it, striking himself in the foot.
May 12 – Starr, SC
A 3-year-old boy died Friday after shooting himself with a gun he found in his family’s SUV outside their home.
May 11 – East Chicago, IN
A 4-year-old boy, just days away from turning five, accidentally shot and killed himself early Thursday morning after finding a gun in his home.
May 10 – Barrow County, GA
A 9-year-old had gotten off the bus from school shortly before gaining access to a gun and fatally shooting himself with it.
May 10 – Taylorsville, NC
A 15-year-old boy picked up a 9 mm pistol, accidentally causing it to fire. The teen was struck in the abdomen. Witnesses told deputies that a group of teenagers had three firearms, including the pistol, laying on a swivel stool.
May 9 – Pekin, IN
Several teens were playing with a gun in a barn when it discharged, shooting a 16-year-old in the head.
May 9 – Spark, NV
Several teens had a gun in a car when it discharged, shooting a 15-year-old in the leg. They dropped him off at a home and left him there bleeding. Police are investigating.
May 8 – Eunice, LA
A 12-year-old boy was playing with a handgun, unloaded the magazine but didn’t clear the bullet in the chamber and shot himself in the head. He died later that night.
May 8 – Birmingham, AL
A 2-year-old boy was unintentionally shot in the hand.
May 5 – Houma, LA
An 8 year old boy found one of his parents loaded AK-47 in the trunk of a car and unintentionally shot himself in the leg.
May 5 – Bradley County, TN
A 10-year-old boy was playing with his parent’s 9mm Glock handgun as he talked to a friend on his computer when he discharged the gun and shot himself in the arm.
May 5 – Baton Rouge, LA
Three teen/tween friend were playing with a handgun when it unintentionally fired, killing a 12 year old. Three teen friend were playing with a handgun when it unintentionally fired, killing a 12 year old. The 13-year-old was charged with negligent homicide and a 12-year-old was charged with possession of a firearm.
May 5 – San Angelo, TX
Two 15-year-old teens were playing with a handgun when it discharged, shooting one in the head. The 15-year-old shooter was charged with aggravated assault with deadly weapon. The adult gun owner, a resident in the home, was not charged.
May 4 – Smyrna, NY
Two teens were pointing rifles at each other and one unintentionally fired, shooting the 17-year-old in the shoulder. Both teens from Smyrna face charges of reckless endangerment in the accidental shooting.
May 2 – Green Bay, WI
A 17-year-old was playing with a gun in the backseat of a car and unintentionally shot a 23-year-old women in the back who was sitting in the car’s front seat. The 17-year-old was was arrested and charged with first degree reckless injury and possession of dangerous weapon by a person under 18.