Since December’s Newtown massacre, dozens of 911 calls have been made by legal gun owners, reporting accidental injuries and deaths by the lethal weapons. Children and toddlers as young as two have killed themselves, friends, siblings or even parents with loaded firearms found around the house.
“You don’t need a mass shooting if you want to see kids injured by guns,” said Angela Sauaia, a trauma researcher at the University of Colorado. “A good proportion of these injuries are caused by the children themselves. Injuries caused by firearms are much more likely to be self-inflicted than any other injuries.”
“Experts on both sides of the gun debate say these deaths are completely avoidable.” Still, the youth gun death rate has remained static for the past 15 years. In December, twenty Sandy Hook Elementary first-graders were slaughtered; according to the Daily News, since the tragedy at Newtown, more than twice as many children age 12 and under have died from accidental shootings across the country. “Those numbers do not include children killed by adults. Add those tragedies in, and about 120 innocents ages 12 and under have been killed by guns since Newtown. Six accidental shootings killed kids in Ohio and another five in Texas, where about 36% of residents have a gun in the home. Nationally, about 35% of homes contain at least one gun.”
“First and foremost, appreciate the fact that bringing a firearm into the home has the potential to kill somebody,” says Daniel Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Aside from the tragic consequences of losing a child, there are legal implications for gun owners as well. In many cases around the country, legal gun owners have been criminally charged after accidental shootings, even ones in which they were not involved. Accidental gun deaths are underreported by up to 90%, according to Sauaia, because many shootings are classified as homicides, even if they aren’t murders.
So frequent are child shootings that hospital trauma surgeons consider them “routine,” Sauaia said. “Frequently they kill the patient, they require more hospital resources and at least a large number of them are preventable,” according to her team’s research on Denver-area shootings.
“I don’t care what you think about guns, there’s some commonality all can agree on,” she said. “Nobody in this world would disagree: Children should not have unsupervised access to loaded and unlocked guns.”
“The gun owner needs to know who in their household should have access to firearms and to take steps to prevent those who shouldn’t from being able to acquire that access,” Brassard said. “It’s about keeping guns out of the wrong hands.”