Review Finds Twice as Many Accidental Gun Deaths of Children as Reported
Disturbing as accidental shootings involving children are, efforts to adopt tougher safety laws have been undermined by local governments’ habit of underreporting these types of fatalities.
The New York Times concluded after reviewing 259 accidental firearm deaths of children younger than 15 in eight states that these cases occur about twice as often as official records show.
This undercounting takes place because local officials, including coroners, will mistakenly classify the deaths as something other than an accident, like a homicide.
For the National Rifle Association (NRA), the lower official numbers help fuel the group’s argument that legislatures don’t need to adopt more gun-safety laws. The NRA claims kids are more likely to die as a result of falls, poisoning or environmental factors than from gunshots.
The NRA also claims that most fatal gun accidents involving children are caused by adult criminals who mishandled their firearms. But the Times study found that a large majority of these cases stem from children having easy access to guns, with the shootings occurring accidentally, either self-inflicted or by another child.
The Times also determined that in almost every case, the accidental shooter was a boy and that 81% of the victims were boys. In 28% of the cases, the fatal wound was self-inflicted.
Currently, fewer than 20 states have passed laws that hold adults criminally liable for failing to store guns safely and enabling children to access them, according to the Times.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman
To Learn More:
Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll (by Michael Luo and Mike McIntire, New York Times)
Average of 2 Children Shot to Death in U.S. Every Week (not including Accidents) (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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