Crime Tracker Fighting Back: Preventing gun accidents with children

Believe it or not, 30 children are either killed or injured every day by firearms in the United States.

Most of those incidents result from guns owned by the child’s family or friends.

The startling fact is that most of them are preventable.

Each year, 20,000 children end up in the emergency room as a result of a firearm.

The lucky kids survive, but many die.

“What we do see is usually a kid gets a gun out, and plays with it, and either shoots himself or another child that may be with him,” Lt. Terry Hastings of the Little Rock Police Department said.

A recent study found 63% of firearm injuries involving kids were intentional: from homicides, suicide attempts or encounters with law enforcement.

But the remaining 37% is what’s alarming. All of them were unintentional, meaning young innocent children ended up a victim.

Case in point: on March 10, a 14-year-old boy found a gun inside of a Pine Bluff house, and accidently shot and killed a 12-year old boy.

“It’s devastating,” Neighbor Kristin Hicks said. “You really don’t know what to do or think about the situation.”

Two days later, it happened again: this time in Little Rock.

A nine-year-old girl found a gun inside her parents apartment and then accidentally fired it, killing her seven-year-old brother.

Two shootings. Two deaths. Both accidents.

“The best way to battle this problem is education,” Lt. Hastings said:

For Nicholas and Leann Stehle, gun safety is the top priority in their household and for good reason. The Stehles have two beautiful kids – four-year-old Luke, and 4-month-old Joelle

“We have repeated safety talks and he understands he doesn’t touch them and if he finds one… he’s supposed to tell an adult.” Stehle said:

Stehle, a concealed carry instructor, says there are only two safe places for a firearm.

“One is on your person,” Stehle said. “The other is locked up in a safe.”

Stehle is confident he’s doing everything right to keep his family safe, but he realizes mistakes can be made.

“You just have to make sure you’ve taken the proper precautions in your own home to make sure that absolutely cannot happen.”

But sadly, it does. Of all the accidental shootings involving kids, more than 1/3 take place in the homes of their friends, neighbors or relatives.

Sleepovers or “play days” are a big deal for most kids. They happen all the time. But when was the last time someone asked you, “Do you own a gun?” It’s a question many parents never even think about asking.

Experts say it should be a top priority.

And if the answer is yes, you should follow-up with even more questions.

It might be uncomfortable asking such a personal question – but it’s one you can’t afford not to ask – especially considering what could happen if and when your little one comes across one of these.

The numbers are alarming. But what it boils down to is common sense and education. You must teach your kids what to do if and when they find a gun. And you must take safety precautions in your home, such a buying a safe and gun locks.

But others will argue that your best bet is to not even keep a gun in your home.

That’s a decision every family will have to make.

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