A hundred children, including three in North Carolina, were shot and killed in accidental shootings last year, largely in situations where loaded guns had been left unattended and reachable by small children.
The 2013 deaths of children under 14 were tallied through press reports by the gun control groups Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action and compiled in a report “Innocents Lost” to call attention to preventable child gun deaths.
The report (click here to read) also concluded that two-thirds of the deaths could have been prevented if the guns had been locked and stored away from where children could reach the weapons.
The North Carolina deaths included that of 10-year-old Christopher Stanlane Jr. , who was killed in Fairmont in March 2013 when his father was cleaning a shotgun and it accidentally discharged, instantly killing the boy.
Fayetteville saw two accidental shooting deaths of children last year. The first came in October when 2-year-old Samarri Beauford found a loaded gun owned by her father, a convicted felon prevented from owning guns, under a couch and died when she was able to fire the weapon.
The next month, 4-year-old Killian Perez of Fayetteville accidentally shot himself when he found a loaded gun belonging to his father, a soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, on top of a refrigerator.
The 100 deaths nationwide were far above the average of 62 annual accidental gun deaths of children under 14 reported to the Centers for Disease Control from 2007 to 2011, leading the groups to believe that accidental gun deaths are regularly underreported on the federal level.
“It’s a conservative estimate,” said Adam Skaggs, an attorney with Everytown for Gun Safety. “In the vast majority of these cases, these tragedies could have been prevented.”
Unlike many other states highlighted in the report, North Carolina does have laws on the books that allow criminal misdemeanor charges to be filed against adults who left unsecured guns that children got access to.
But it doesn’t mean that the laws are always applied, said Sarah Green, a volunteer with the North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action. Green said the group monitors to see if charges are filed when children are injured or killed as the result of a gun being left in places where children can access them.
She said the group got involved in February and called local prosecutors when the 17-month-old daughter of a parenting columnist for the Shelby Star, was shot and injured when a 3-year-old sibling found a loaded gun in in a secret compartment in a bedroom dresser. The father had criminal charges filed against him several weeks after the shooting.
“For us in North Carolina, it’s very important that when these incidents happen, the law is applied,” Green said. “The law does deter people.”
The group also wants to encourage pediatricians and family doctors to inquire about gun safety in homes.