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Everytown Releases New Research Highlighting 2023 as Worst Year for Unintentional Shootings by Children; Missouri is National Leader, Sees Some of the Highest Rates of Unintentional Shootings by Children


Self-Inflicted Unintentional Shooting By a 2-Year-Old in Ferguson Emphasizes Need to Safely Store Firearms

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Everytown for Gun Safety has released new data highlighting the devastating rise in unintentional shootings by children, finding that 2023 had the highest number of incidents since Everytown started tracking them in 2015. In fact, the annual number of unintentional shootings by children surpassed 400 for the first time since Everytown began its tracking. Everytown’s research also shows that Missouri ranks 4th in the nation, seeing some of the highest rates of unintentional shootings by children, and the state saw 129 unintentional shootings by children from 2015-2023. Just this past Saturday, a 2-year-old child in Ferguson suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound after getting ahold of an unsecured firearm. 

Missouri has the seventh highest rate of gun deaths in the U.S. Missouri is missing all of the foundational gun safety laws, including a secure gun storage law, requiring background checks for all firearm sales, and requiring a permit to carry concealed firearms in public. Missouri also lacks a law requiring gun owners to securely store their firearms. In Missouri people can carry concealed, loaded handguns in public without a permit. Over the last decade, Missouri has systematically chipped away at any and all gun safety measures and has emboldened extremists with their ‘guns everywhere’ agenda. 

Roughly once every day in the United States, a child under the age of 18 gains access to a loaded gun and unintentionally shoots themself or someone else. Everytown’s #NotAnAccident Index is a unique database that has tracked more than 3,200 of these shootings by children from 2015 to 2023, resulting in more than 1,200 people killed and more than 2,000 people wounded. 

“Guns are the number one killer of children in Missouri and we are responsible for keeping our children safe by storing guns out of their reach,” said Ann Lohman, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action and a volunteer leader with the Be SMART program in Missouri. “We all need to do our part in keeping guns out of our children’s hands, which sadly all too often results in unintentional shootings and tragedy. We are heartbroken to learn of the news of the 2-year-old in Ferugson who got a hold of a gun just this weekend, knowing well this tragedy could have been prevented. Securing firearms is a critical step in keeping our kids safe and saving lives.”

Key findings from the new data include:

  • The two age groups most likely to unintentionally shoot themself or others are high schoolers between the ages of 14 and 17, followed by preschoolers ages five and younger.
  • The victims of shootings by children are most often also children. Over nine in 10 of those wounded or killed in unintentional shootings by children were also under 18 years old.
  • Nearly one in every three unintentional shooters were five years old and younger. Over one thousand toddlers and preschoolers since 2015 have come upon a loaded firearm and shot themself or someone else.   
  • When children unintentionally shoot another person, the victim is most often a sibling or a friend.
  • More than seven in 10 unintentional child shootings occur in or around homes.
  • Unintentional shootings occur most frequently at times when children are likely to be home: over the weekend and in the summer.
  • Handguns account for the bulk of gun types accessed by children in unintentional shootings. 
  • The states with the highest rates of unintentional shootings by children — Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, and Alabama — have weak or no firearm storage laws, while the states with the lowest rates all have storage laws — Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and California.
  • 2023 saw the highest number of incidents (411), injuries (270) and total victims (427).

This one-of-a-kind dataset allows us to identify solutions. Knowing that these shootings largely occur in and around homes and on weekends and over the summer—when children are likely to be home—points to secure firearm storage as a critical answer. Unintentional shootings by children are not accidents, as they are almost always preventable with secure firearm storage practices, awareness, and policies. These avoidable tragedies cause physical and emotional suffering that persists far beyond the initial incident and leave scars on people far beyond the immediate families of those involved. 

Research shows the most effective way to prevent an unintentional shooting is to make sure firearms are stored as securely as possible. That means unloaded, locked, and separate from ammunition. Firearms are not stored securely when they’re placed in an unlocked dresser or nightstand drawer, under a couch cushion, mattress, or pillow, in an unlocked closet, on a high shelf or on top of the refrigerator. 

Be SMART, a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, helps parents and other adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries, youth suicide, and gunfire on school grounds. 

The program encourages parents and adults to: 

  • Secure all guns in their home and vehicles
  • Model responsible behavior around guns
  • Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes
  • Recognize the role of guns in suicide
  • Tell your peers to be SMART

Gun owners must store all of their guns securely at all times; parents need to ask about guns and gun storage at any home their children will be visiting; schools, the medical community, gun shops and gun storage device sellers, and others play a vital role in educating the community about secure gun storage; and community members need to support laws that research has shown are effective in holding adults accountable for failing to store their firearms securely. Read more on solutions to this devastating trend here. For more information on secure firearm storage and the most effective ways to protect children from unsecured firearms, visit

In an average year, 1,351 people die by guns and 2,312 are wounded. Gun violence costs Missouri $17.6 billion each year, of which $455.3 million is paid by taxpayers. More information about gun violence in Missouri can be found here.