Do Toddlers Really Shoot Themselves?

P1000675.JPGGuns are intriguing to toddlers and older kids because they’re mechanical, they’re prominent in movies and TV shows, and they’re powerful. When I was perhaps age 6 to 9 I had a pair of toy six-shooters and a double holster to keep them in. I had asked for them, along with cowboy boots and a vest with fringe.

I wouldn’t want to own a real gun, however. For one thing, I’d worry too much about protecting the children in my life from getting their hands on it.

The New York Times article, One Week in April, Four Toddlers Shot and Killed Themselves by JACK HEALY, JULIE BOSMAN, ALAN BLINDER and JULIE TURKEWITZ on MAY 5, 2016, gave some examples of what can happen when adults carelessly leave guns where children can reach them. They cite the statistic that we have more than 30,000 annual gun deaths. “Toddlers’ are the most maddening gun deaths in America. Last year, at least 30 people were killed in accidental shootings in which the shooter was 5 or younger, according to Everytown For Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group that tracks these shootings, largely through news reports.

“With shootings by preschoolers happening at a pace of about two per week, some of the victims were the youngsters’ parents or siblings, but in many cases the children ended up taking their own lives.

‘You can’t call this a tragic accident,’ said Jean Peters Baker, the prosecutor of Jackson County, Mo., who is overseeing the criminal case in Sha’Quille’s death. ‘These are really preventable, and we’re not willing to prevent them.’” Please read the Times article if you want the details of what happened to these four children and what their parents are going through. For example, in a Facebook post, one boy’s mother wrote that she had not been able to sleep and was a “useless sad waste. I can’t take life. Why is it so cruel and unrelenting and unforgiving?”

“Gun control advocates say these deaths illustrate lethal gaps in gun safety laws. Some states require locked storage of guns or trigger locks to be sold with handguns. Others leave safety decisions largely to gun owners. Twenty-seven states have laws that hold adults responsible for letting children have unsupervised access to guns, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, though experts say such measures have, at best, a small effect on reducing gun deaths. Massachusetts is the only state that requires gun owners to store their guns in a locked place, though it has not stopped youngsters there from accidentally killing themselves or other children.

“In 2015, there were at least 278 unintentional shootings at the hands of young children and teenagers, according to Everytown’s database. During the week in April when Sha’Quille and the other children died, there were at least five other accidental shootings by children and teenagers. Alysee Defee, 13, was shot in the armpit with a 20-gauge shotgun she had used for turkey hunting in Floyd County, Ind. Zai Deshields, 4, pulled a handgun out of a backpack at her grandmother’s home in Arlington, Tex., and shot her uncle in the leg.

“A child who accidentally pulls the trigger is most likely to be 3 years old, the statistics show.

“A 2013 investigation by The New York Times of children killed with firearms found that accidental shootings like these were being vastly undercounted by official tabulations, and were occurring about twice as often as records said.”

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