Six Accidental Child Shootings in Five Months
The sixth child in five months died yesterday in an unintentional shooting.
He was eight years old, and his friend, who authorities say was with him at the time, was 11. The two boys were tossing the gun back and forth, thinking it was unloaded, before it discharged and struck the eight-year-old, according to a Houston Police Department report.
The Houston Chronicle reported that adults had left the boys, along with two 12-year-old girls, home alone while they ran a quick errand to buy snacks. It's not yet clear whether the adults will face criminal charges for failure to conceal a firearm from a child, which in Texas is a misdemeanor punishable for up to one year behind bars, though neither adult was the boy's parent.
Out of the five unintentional child shootings that have recently happened in Harris County, in only one case does an adult, Krystal Kellermann, face charges. Kellermann was outside smoking and talking on her cell phone while her two sons, ages four and six, discovered a firearm in a closet and started playing with it, according to reports from Child Protective Services. The youngest was shot and killed. Kellermann was released on $1,000 bond.
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According to the Chronicle, in the past eight years, 14 people have faced charges for making a firearm accessible to a child. But based on several studies, we know that reporting of these types of cases is not always accurate.
Both The New York Times and the gun-safety advocacy group Everytown have found that the frequency of child shootings is nearly twice as much as records indicate, based on scrutiny of hundreds of cases. But as for criminal charges, a Mother Jones reporter independently studied child gun deaths and found that in 84 cases deemed accidents, only four adults faced charges, and in 72 cases in which a child or teen pulled the trigger, only nine adults were held criminally liable. An expert on gun violence, Jon Vernick, the co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told the Chronicle that charges appear to be filed infrequently across the country. "At least in some cases," he said, "we think prosecutors are reluctant to bring cases against parents grieving a dead child."
But in all of these cases, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America stressed that these cases shouldn't be called "accidents." "These types shootings are preventable," said Carolyn Daniel, herself a mother of an eight-year-old. "They happen as a result of firearms not being secured by adults. No gun passes through the hands of a child that hasn't first passed through the hands of an adult."
There was a period earlier this year, in March, when three children died from accidental shootings in just four days.