NEW YORK – Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, today marked two hundred unintentional shootings by a child 17-years-old or younger in America so far this year. The data – tracked on the #NotAnAccident Index – revealed that unintentional child shooting deaths in 2016 have already exceeded those in 2015, with nearly two months still left in the year.
In 2015, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America launched the #NotAnAccident Index, a first-of-its kind tracker and interactive map based on media coverage and police reports of instances where a person, 17-years-old or younger, unintentionally fires a gun and harms him or herself, or another person. So far in 2016, there have been at least 200 unintentional child shootings, resulting in 96 deaths and 107 injuries – an average of one unintentional child shooting in America every 34 hours. By comparison, in 2015, there were 88 reported deaths across 278 incidents.
As of today, Texas has experienced the most unintentional child shootings so far this year with 20 incidents, while Georgia and Florida round out the top three with 16 and 15 incidents respectively.
The 200th shooting occurred last Thursday in Waukegan, IL, when three-year-old Jeremiah Lovelle Banks found his father’s 9mm semi-automatic handgun on a dresser in his parent’s bedroom and discharged it, hitting himself in the head. He was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead.
Further analysis of the data shows that 167 of the incidents (84 percent) could have been prevented had the gun been properly stored, unloaded and locked.
“Children should never be around unsecured guns, full stop. But the data creating this tragic, national milestone reveals that we have a lot of work to do – gun owners and non-gun owners alike – to make that a reality,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Unbelievably, more than two million American children live in homes with unsecured guns, which is why American children shoot and injure or kill themselves or others at an alarming rate. But these incidents aren’t just faceless, heartbreaking tragedies – they are preventable and we know there are clear solutions to help stop these kinds of tragedies before they happen. It’s on us adults to take responsibility – whether that’s safely storing firearms in the home or simply asking the question before your child goes on a play date. Our children’s lives are on the line.”
“On April 5, 2002, the unthinkable became my reality,” said Haley Rinehart of Bowling Green, KY. “My son Eli, who was just four years old at the time, found an unsecured gun at his paternal grandmother’s house and unintentionally shot himself in the head. The bullet passed through his brain. He had to have his right eye completely removed, and now wears a prosthetic eye. He also lost his temporal bone, and part of his temporal lobe. But Eli’s a true fighter and he’s now a freshman in college. It’s become my mission to educate others about the importance of making sure that all guns are securely and safely stored. That’s why I became involved with the BeSMART program, to empower other parents with the tools to ask the tough, but critical questions that could save their child’s life.”
In efforts to address unintentional child shootings, Everytown and Moms Demand Action launched BeSMART, a public education campaign asking gun owners and non-gun owners alike to come together to reduce the number of unintentional child shootings, suicides, and homicides that occur when firearms are not stored responsibly and children or teens get ahold of a gun. The campaign asks parents and caretakers to take five steps to help prevent shootings by children: Secure all guns in your home and vehicles; Model responsible behavior around guns; Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes; Recognize the risks of teen suicide; Tell your peers to be SMART. More information on Be SMART is available at BeSMARTforKids.org
As part of the BeSMART campaign and to promote gun safety in communities nationwide, Everytown and Moms Demand Action provides one gunlock for every supporter who completes the online gun safety quiz on BeSMARTforKids.org to Moms Demand Action chapters to distribute at local gun safety awareness events across the country.