Analysis Shows States With Strong Secure Gun Storage Policies Have Fewer Unintentional Shootings by Children Than States With Lax or No Policies
Research Shows Unintentional Shootings Deaths Have Increased Over 30% During the Coronavirus Pandemic
NEW YORK — Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund today released a new report on unintentional shootings by children. Almost every single day, a child gets their hands on a gun and unintentionally kills or injures someone in the US and unintentional shooting deaths by children have already increased over 30 percent during the pandemic alone. 2021 is on track to surpass that, with the highest number of January to June incidents of the past seven years.
Right now, it’s estimated that 5.4 million children live in a home with at least one gun that is not securely stored. That is an increase of 800,000 children since 2015. With record gun sales since the pandemic began, including a reported surge in first-time gun owners, researchers are increasingly concerned.
“Almost every day we hear the same tragic story of a child unintentionally shooting themself or others — that’s unacceptable,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps, director of research for Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. “Everytown has spent the last six years tracking and analyzing unintentional shootings by children because we knew there was a need for this type of research. Stories from countless survivor families together with the data show us that it’s not enough to teach your kids not to touch firearms. Guns always need to be securely stored: meaning unloaded, locked, and stored separate from ammunition.”
“My son’s shooting has affected our whole lives,” said Haley Rinehart, a volunteer leader with Moms Demand Action in Kentucky and a gun violence survivor whose four-year-old son found an unsecured, loaded gun at a relative’s home and shot and wounded himself in the head in 2002. “Even almost 20 years later, we’re still dealing with the aftermath of all of this tragedy. It’s like a wound that never heals. I fight for parents to securely store their firearms, so no family goes through the same tragedy that my family went through.”
Additional key findings of the report:
- Secure storage laws work. States with the highest rates of unintentional shootings by children such as Louisiana, Alaska, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Indiana, and Georgia don’t have secure gun storage policies in place. Nine of the 10 states with the lowest rates like Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Washington, do have secure gun storage laws on the books.
- Unintentional shootings by children occur most when children are likely to be home: over the weekend, in the summer, and during school holidays.
- Shootings by children are most often also shootings of other children. Ninety-one percent of the victims in these shootings were also under 18.
- Boys make up 83 percent of the child shooters and boys and men make up 76 percent of the victims.
- Most of these unintentional child shootings occur in homes, whether in the home of the shooter, the victim, or a relative or friend’s house or other home, causing physical injuries or tragedies that affect multiple families and communities.
- The most likely age group to be both shooters and victims are teenagers ages 14 to 17, and preschool aged children are a close second. More than one in every four of these shootings are by preschoolers aged five and younger. And one in every four of the victims are also five and younger.
Recommendations to prevent unintentional shootings:
- Lawmakers passing statewide secure gun storage laws
- Local initiative with school boards to send materials about secure storage home with students to remind parents of the importance of these actions
- Programmatic solutions such as the Gun Shop Project
- Joining the Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action Be SMART program which encourages adults to talk with other adults about secure storage practices
Learn more on secure storage and ways to prevent unintentional shootings here. To speak with a researcher, please don’t hesitate to reach out.