Paul Morigi / AP
Unintentional shooting deaths of children handling firearms jumped 31% at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic from a year earlier, new data shows.
There were 98 deaths from unintentional shooting by children from March to December 2019, up from 128 during the same period in 2020, according to research by advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.
And the trend continues to worsen during the pandemic, according to the groups.
So far, in 2021, there have been at least 259 unintentional shootings by children, killing 104 and injuring 168 nationwide, according to the group’s #NotAnAccident index. Everytown is an American nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control.
At this rate, the organization predicts that these incidents in 2021 will even surpass the record reached in 2017. In that year, 383 cases of accidental shooting by children occurred and at least 156 people were killed.
The organization says COVID-19 closures, lack of child care, record gun sales in the United States during the pandemic and a reported increase in the number of new gun owners may be to blame.
Accidental shootings by children happen almost daily
Everytown has been tracking unintentional child shootings for six years. Cases of young children grabbing a gun and mistakenly shooting themselves, a friend or a family member occur almost daily.
There have been at least 2,070 unintentional shootings by children, resulting in 765 deaths from 2015 to 2020, according to the group’s research.
Forty-four percent of American adults report living in a household with a firearm, of which about a third report personally owning one, according to a Gallup survey conducted in October 2020.
Data details devastating trend
Philippe Kamrass / AP
Everytown’s new report highlights the commonalities of each of the reported cases of children playing with, or grabbing, and shooting at each other or others.
- 91% of the victims of unintentional shootings by children were also under the age of 18.
- More than one in four shootings is committed by children aged 5 and under. One in four victims is also 5 years old and under.
- Boys constitute the majority of shooters and victims. About 83% of child shooters are young boys. Boys and men represent 76% of the victims.
- The age group most likely to be both a shooter and a victim are adolescents aged 14 to 17, followed by preschoolers.
What can you do to protect your child?
Everytown says about 5.4 million children live in households in the United States with at least one gun loaded and unlocked. Most of these shootings take place at the home of the shooter, the victim, a relative or a friend.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the safest home for a child be one without a gun.
For parents with guns, medical professionals say the best way to protect children around guns is to keep guns locked in a safe or safe and make sure that children do not have access to the keys.