Safe Kids 2020 – String of accidental shootings among young people highlights importance of safe gun storage

Safe Kids 2020

Lansing, Mich. (WLNS) — It was December 3, 2019 when tragedy struck a Lansing family.  

A toddler accidentally shot himself in the head with his father’s gun. The incident happened at the Silver Stone Townhomes on the 5500 block of South Martin Luther King Boulevard. The little boy survived, but he is recovering from life altering injuries.

His 26-year-old father is charged with second degree child abuse for causing serious physical and or mental harm to a child by leaving a loaded firearm that was accessible to him. It’s a shooting that didn’t happen.

Christopher Smith, Chairperson for the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, says, “We need to secure firearms in our homes in order to make sure we don’t have accidental shootings.. ”  

Smith goes on to say that any death by gun violence is one too many. Statistics show about seven hundred kids ages 11 and younger will be injured or killed by firearms each year. That’s why Smith says it’s important for parents to take action.

“When your child is going to someone else’s house to play,, don’t you always say won’t there be another adult there?  But to also think about saying to the parents of the other child . Are there firearms in the home? Are they secure? So that children can’t obtain them?

It might be an uncomfotrable conversation for some parents to have, but Smith says it’s a very small price to pay for potentially saving a life.

A 2016 study conducted by the Associated Press and USA Today found that deaths and injuries spike for children under the age of five, with three-year-olds the most common victims.

Those numbers prompted a majority of states nationwide to have child access prevention laws in place, that hold gun owners accountable for safely storing their firearms.

Michigan is not on that list, but efforts are underway to change that.

On April 2019, state Senator Rebekah Warran introduced legislation that would make it a crime to store or leave a firearm where it may be accessed by a minor, subject to five years in prison if a minor uses the gun to injure or kill himself or others. The bill is currently being considered in a house committee.

Statistics show that accidental shootings spike again among 15 to 17-year-olds.

“I personally know two people who were shot as teens while in a room with their friends playing with a gun and mishandling firearms,” Smith said.

The two teens survived but on October 20, 2019, 18-year-old Adam Barnet of Lansing did not.

The 17-year-old who fired the hunting rifle told police he leveled the barrel, pointing the gun at Barnett, and “inadvertently, accidentally, by his own admissionI”  pulled the trigger. The rifle had been on top of a kitchen table.    The teen was convicted of careless discharge of a weapon causing death. A misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in jail.   

“We need to de-glamourize firearms, especially with respect to teens so that they have genuine sense of who dangerous this is especially in the hands of someone who doesn’t have training,” Smith said.

That’s important because more kids under 19 die because of a bullet than most anything else.

Smith said education makes preventing gun violence possible.

“It does say to us,  – anyone can have momentary mental slip if you are not systematically focused on securing your firearm.  keeping everyone in the household safe,” Smith said.

To learn more about safe gun storage visit BeSmartForKids.org.

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