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Gun Accidents Kill 500 Kids Each Year

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Advice every parent needs to hear about firearm safety.


This week, an 8-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old sister in California.

"It's a tragic case of a sibling who picked up a firearm, thinking it was a toy, pointed it at his sister and discharged one round from the firearm, striking her in the head," said Vacaville Police Sgt. Charlie Spruill.

But these aren't freak accidents. More than 500 children die annually from accidental gunshots. Some shoot themselves, while others kill friends or siblings after discovering a gun.

Here are more scary stats: Americans own 200 million firearms, and 35 percent of homes contain at least one gun. Last year, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 1.7 million children live in homes with loaded and unlocked guns.

And if you do own a gun and think your kid won't get to it, listen to this: A recent study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that 39 percent of kids knew where their parents' guns were stored, while 22 percent said that they had handled the weapons despite adults' warnings to stay away. What's more, age was not a factor in whether children had played with the guns: Five-year-olds were just as likely to report doing so as14-year-olds.

Here are just a few heartbreaking cases:

• Four-year-old Dylan Jackson shot himself to death after finding a loaded gun at a friend's home during a birthday party.

• A 3-year-old Southeast Washington boy shot himself in the foot and grazed his hand while playing with his father's gun -- which he found lying on the floor.

• A 2-year-old Tampa boy shot himself in the chest with a loaded 9 mm he found in his parent's couch while playing.

• Last February, a 13-year-old boy shot himself with a semiautomatic handgun in the home of his guardian, a Maryland police officer.

• The 10-year-old son of a New York City police officer died after shooting himself in the face with his father's loaded revolver. The boy found the weapon on a shelf in the basement while looking for a ball his mom had hidden.

Is there a way to stop these senseless deaths?

The NRA (National Rifle Association) sponsors classes to teach children that if they find a gun, to leave the area and inform an adult. But studies show that kids who take these classes are no less likely to play with guns than kids who don't attend the class.

"The biggest mistake parents make is assuming their child doesn't know where the gun in the house is," says Matthew Miller, associate director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. "Kids are smart, and if they know there's a firearm in the house, they'll probably figure out a way to get to it.

"We can't expect children to act like adults," he adds. "Parents monitor their kid's diet, curfew and social life, but when it comes to guns, parents often just say, 'Respect the gun; it's off-limits,' or, 'Guns are dangerous.' That type of parenting just doesn't work."

So should parents not tell kids if there's a gun in the home?

"First, you have to weigh whether or not you really need a weapon," says Miller. "Do the benefits outweigh the risks? If the answer is yes, you must take safety precautions.Be honest with your children. Tell them there is a firearm in the home, but explicitly explain that guns are fatal, no matter how children handle them. Don't keep the gun loaded; store the ammunition in a locked safe and carry the key with you at all times. Also, don't hide the combination and don't give it an obvious numerical password.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians ask parents about guns in their home in an effort called 'Anticipatory Guidance,' which attempts to keep children safe in cars, on bikes and around swimming pools," adds Miller. "It's rare that doctors initiate this conversation, but they should.Also, [you should] ask the parents of your children's friends if they keep guns at home, and if kids will be playing where they're stored. Don't worry about appearing intrusive: It's better to seem pushy and be safe."

Do you think parents should keep guns in their home with children present?

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65 comments so far | Post a comment now
Cyrus February 16, 2010, 12:38 PM

Lenny- This has nothing to do with conservatives or liberals. FACT: There are just as many “liberal” gun owners out there as there are “conservative” gun owners. This isn’t a liberal vs. conservative cause. If you support gun rights, quit undercutting your own cause and you’ll find more people you agree with. Me, for example.

Cyrus February 16, 2010, 12:39 PM

Lenny- This has nothing to do with conservatives or liberals. FACT: There are just as many “liberal” gun owners out there as there are “conservative” gun owners. This isn’t a liberal vs. conservative cause. If you support gun rights, quit undercutting your own cause and you’ll find more people you agree with. Me, for example.

Cyrus February 16, 2010, 12:41 PM

Oh, and the number isn’t 500, it’s less than half of that. That’s ONE accidental death for every ONE MILLION guns in the US. Pretty excellent number, and FAR FAR lower than the stats for pools, household chemicals, etc.

Rustmeister May 10, 2010, 8:12 AM

Wow, I never would have expected so many reasoned comments in a post of this nature. Gotta love it!

elmo iscariot May 10, 2010, 12:00 PM


“Lenny- This has nothing to do with conservatives or liberals…This isn’t a liberal vs. conservative cause.”

I desperately wish that was true. Most of my friends come down on the liberal end of the spectrum, and I’d love it if gun rights weren’t a liberal/conservative issue, but unfortunately they are. There are lots of liberals who own guns, and lots of conservatives who favor gun control, but statistically, support for draconian gun laws comes overwhelmingly from the overpopulated liberal enclaves. Republicans didn’t push the asinine “assault weapons” ban. It’s a sad fact that in most cases today, “liberal” activists have turned their backs on liberal values (that is, a primary concern for the rights and autonomy of the individual), and are perfectly comfortable restricting other people’s choices in search of a “greater good”.

Not to say for a minute this doesn’t also happen with conservatives (if nothing else, allying with the religious right cost American political conservatives any lingering pretext they had of being the guardians of individual freedom), but it so happens that gun control in particular is generally a liberal blindness in this country.

I’ll wait eagerly for the day I’m proven wrong—when liberal groups in this country are as friendly to a man’s right to carry a gun as they are to his right to marry another man—but until then, people invested in gun rights will rationally conclude that the Republican party is less of an enemy than the Democrats.

Vote out the Pelosis, and then you’ll starve the Republicans of gun owners’ votes.

princewally May 11, 2010, 6:32 AM

The actual number, according to the CDC for 2006(the last year available) is 102. 500 per year is a bald-faced lie.

mike w. May 11, 2010, 8:35 AM

Why is it that anti-gun folks have to flat out LIE in order to push their agenda?

Also, why did the author not look at other means of accidental death among children?

Xrlq May 11, 2010, 3:27 PM

Not only that, but if they ARE going to lie, why go for such a lame lie as 500 out of 3 million people - still a statistical zero? If you’re going to make crap up, at least make up something good.

craig May 12, 2010, 11:17 AM

I’m with Rustmeister. I would have expected a bunch of anti-gun comments here. Good for you folks for being intellectually honest instead of emotionally dishonest. Maybe there is hope for this country!!

Vinnie May 17, 2010, 1:11 PM

I honestly never used a gun but for fun i use my B.B gun and shoot my dogs and baby sister with it to shut them up and when my parents ask where they got those bumps i say mesqueitos [Itailian/Mexican] im a beast

Kaos August 23, 2010, 1:46 PM

According to the CDC’s website - 112 kids died in 2006 from accidental firearms - the largest number of unintentional firearm deaths in the last 10 years was 158 in 1999 - where is this “500 accidental deaths a year” information coming from?

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Hey, I just hopped over to your site via StumbleUpon. Not somthing I would normally read, but I liked your thoughts none the less. Thanks for making something worth reading.

The Constitution gives every American the inalienable right to make a damn fool of himself.

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