During the pandemic, unintentional shootings by children have increased significantly, according to data from the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, the research and education arm of Everytown for Gun Safety. Research shows that to protect children and teens, gun owners should store guns locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition.
Between March and December of 2020, there was a 32 percent increase in unintentional shooting deaths by children of themselves and others and an 18 percent increase in unintentional injuries, compared to the same time period in 2019.
Everytown researchers tracked 316 unintentional shootings by children resulting in 129 deaths and 200 nonfatal injuries between March and December of 2020, compared to 255 shootings resulting in 98 deaths and 169 injuries during the same period in 2019.
“Unintentional shootings were already a deadly problem before the pandemic, and between record gun sales, kids stuck at home and many adults dividing their attention between work and child supervision, the pandemic has significantly increased risk factors,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, research director for Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. “These numbers, some of shootings by toddlers and preschoolers, make clear that these elevated risks have translated into a tragic increase in deaths and injuries. There are effective ways to prevent these tragedies — from raising awareness about secure storage to passing laws requiring it — and these numbers show how urgently we need to act.”
Recent reporting in the Washington Post has highlighted Everytown’s research on the increase in unintentional shootings during the pandemic. In a recent story, reporter John Woodrow Cox also wrote that [emphasis added]:
“If everyone in the United States locked up all their firearms today, researchers estimate, the number of gun-related accidental deaths and suicides among children and teenagers would drop by as much as a third.
And yet, a huge number of Americans don’t take that simple step, either because of ignorance, in most cases, or negligence, in some. Researchers who surveyed gun-owning families in the rural South found that a significant proportion of parents had no idea what their children knew about or had done with their firearms, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics. Nearly 40 percent of parents who claimed that their kids didn’t know where they stored their guns were wrong; the kids said they knew. More than 20 percent of parents who claimed that their kids had never handled one of those guns were also wrong; the kids said they had. Notably, children who had been educated on gun safety were just as likely to say they’d played with the weapons. As of 2015, as many as 4.6 million children lived in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm.”
Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Moms Demand Action developed the Be SMART program, which helps parents and adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent unintentional gun deaths and injuries. In the last five years, Be SMART has served as a model for parents, schools, and PTA’s across the country to educate parents and adults on how to keep their children and families safe from gun violence.
Gun violence never stopped during the pandemic –– in fact, it actually got worse. Over the course of the past year, gun violence and gun sales have both skyrocketed. 2020 was one of the deadliest years on record for the United States. Current estimates suggest that total gun deaths likely exceeded 40,000—at least a 20-year record high. The types of gun violence that have worsened over the past year are often the ones that don’t make the headlines: gun violence in cities, domestic gun violence, suicide, unintentional gun violence in homes, and more. But that doesn’t make them any less deadly or any less tragic.
Additional information about unintentional shootings is here. If you are interested in speaking with a policy or research expert, please don’t hesitate to reach out.