With kids out of school and playing at home over the coming summer months, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America released a new report today, “Innocents Lost: A Year of Unintentional Child Gun Deaths,” a first-of-its-kind analysis that found at least 100 children were killed over a 12-month period. This total – almost two each week —is 61 percent higher than federal data reflect. Nearly two-thirds of these unintended shooting deaths (65 percent) took place in a home or vehicle that belonged to the victim’s family and more than two-thirds of the tragedies (70 percent) could have been avoided if gun owners stored their guns responsibly.
Everytown and Moms also released the findings of a new poll that found strong majorities of likely voters agree that kids and unsecured guns don’t mix.
- 86 percent of Americans – and 77 percent of gun owners – agree that parents with guns in their homes should be required to keep them locked and unloaded.
- 73 percent of Americans – and 72 percent of gun owners – believe that doctors and teachers should be allowed to educate parents about responsible gun storage at home.
- 82 percent of Americans – and 81 percent of gun-owners – favor allowing law enforcement to charge adult gun owners with a crime when a minor gains access to a negligently stored gun and death or serious injury occur.
“This important study reveals the significant undercount of children who are unintentionally killed by guns – and that the majority of these tragedies could have been prevented by responsible firearm storage,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety. “When a child dies or is injured because a gun is left unsecured in a home, it’s not an accident. Now that school’s out for summer, more children will be playing at home throughout the next few months, making it even more important for gun owners to safely store their guns at home.”
“Too often child gun deaths are reported as inevitable ‘accidents’, but our analysis found that more than two-thirds of these tragedies were entirely preventable – if only the firearm had been stored responsibly,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Preventing doctors from talking to patients and parents about gun safety in the home – which the gun lobby has systematically tried to do in states across the country – puts our children’s lives at risk. Sensible measures that deter irresponsible gun storage can simultaneously respect the rights of lawful gun owners while also protecting our kids from danger.”
Children’s natural curiosity can turn an every day scenario into a deadly game of hide-and-seek — as highlighted in a recent video released by Everytown for Gun Safety. About a third of American children live in homes with firearms – and among them, 43 percent contain at least one unlocked firearm. In all, more than two million American children live in homes with unsecured guns, and 1.7 million of those children live in homes with guns that are both loaded and unlocked. The census of unintentional child gun deaths over the course of a year also found that:
- Toddlers age 2-4 have the highest risk of unintentionally shooting themselves.
- Children age 12-14 have the highest risk of being unintentionally shot by a peer.
- Boys were killed in unintentional shootings more than three times as often as girls. And boys were more than 10 times likely to be the shooter in an unintentional shooting as girls.
- The overwhelming majority of shootings occurred in a place likely thought of as safe – 84 percent of deaths occurred in the home or car of the victim’s family, or in the home of a friend or relative.
- Handguns were used in 57 percent of the shootings, more than twice as many incidents as those involving long guns.
- In 58 percent of cases, the victim was killed by someone else, and in 36 percent the victim shot him or herself.
- Of the 66 shootings in which the firearm’s legal owner was reported, 76 percent involved a gun that belonged to a parent or other family member.
“As this report so tragically illustrates, access to guns in the home puts our children at risk of serious injury or death. Young children are naturally curious – expecting them to reliably follow safety rules as the only means to prevent gun injuries is a recipe for disaster. That’s why people who own guns have an absolute responsibility to store them unloaded and locked out of reach of children,” said Thomas K. McInerny, MD, FAAP, immediate past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “The AAP urges local, state and federal lawmakers to enact the strongest possible laws to prevent firearm injuries and deaths.”
“My nephew was killed with a gun that should never have been in a child’s hands,” said Ava Frisinger, whose nephew was killed in an unintentional gun death. “More than two million children live in homes with unsecured guns, and sadly we see almost twice a week how dangerous the consequences can be. We need to do more to keep kids away from unsecured firearms.”
The report also reviews existing state laws and found that twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have some laws on the books that, to varying degrees, allow law enforcement to bring criminal charges against gun owners if children access their guns. An interactive map that reviews state child access prevention laws is also available here.
Based on the findings of Everytown and Moms’ analysis and existing scientific research, the report presents several ways to reduce the number of children killed in unintentional gun shootings – including enhancing responsible firearm storage by educating gun owners, deterring irresponsible storage practices with child access prevention laws and fostering new technologies like smart guns. Everytown and Moms propose several specific recommendations to address the issue of unintentional child gun deaths:
- States should adopt stronger laws to prevent children from accessing unsecured guns by authorizing criminal charges if an adult gun owner stores a gun negligently, a child gains access to the firearm, and some harm results.
- Congress should appropriate funds for research to improve public health data collection regarding unintended child gun deaths and to develop effective educational materials for promoting responsible gun storage.
- Congress should earmark funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission to evaluate and set standards for emerging technologies that promote gun safety.
- Doctors should be allowed and encouraged to promote gun safety, and efforts to gag physicians should be opposed.
- Greater awareness of the issue should be promoted through a national public education campaign enlisting law enforcement, corporate, and non-profit partners.
Much like pool safety, there are simple, commonsense measures adults can take to save children’s lives. In conjunction with the release of the report, Everytown and Moms also released today family-friendly tip sheets for safe firearm storage in the home. These tip sheets contain the simple steps responsible gun owners – and non-owners – can take to save children’s lives.