Columbus police responded to a shooting on North Monroe Avenue on August 12, 2020, just before 8:00 p.m. A 14-year-old male had been babysitting his two-year-old nephew and 1-year-old niece. A gun went off and killed the two-year-old boy.
According to the prosecutor during a court hearing the next morning, the teenager had twirled the gun and fired it four times. A bullet struck the toddler and killed him.
The teenager has been charged with tampering with evidence and reckless homicide.
Gun Safety in the Home
The news report does not detail how the teenager got the gun. However, since he was at home babysitting his niece and nephew, the gun could have been in the home.
Sadly, accidental shootings by children are too common in the United States. It is estimated that close to 1.7 million children live with an unlocked, loaded gun in the home. Approximately 1 in 3 homes with kids have firearms in the home.
Unintentional shootings involving children increased by 43 percent in March and April compared to figures for the past three years during the same period. The rise in shootings involving children coincided with the increase in gun sales during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
During 2019, there were 241 unintended shootings by children. The shootings resulted in 100 fatalities and roughly 150 injuries. In addition to children unintentionally firing guns, teenagers are at a higher risk of suicide when there is a firearm in the home.
When there is a gun in the home, it is 43 times more likely to be used to kill a family member or a friend than it is to be used to kill a burglar or other criminal. For that reason, parents and caregivers must use extreme caution and take safety measures to ensure that children and teens cannot obtain a gun that is in the home.
How Can We Protect Children From Unintentional Shootings?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that the most effective way to prevent unintentional shootings is not to have a firearm in the home. However, they do recognize that many people will have firearms in the home with children.
Therefore, it advises that parents take steps to prevent tragedies like the one that occurred in Columbus. Teaching children not to touch guns is not enough. Parents need to take other steps to prevent children from locating and using guns in the home.
Steps that parents can take include:
- Store all firearms in a locked box. The guns should be unloaded. Ammunition should be locked in a separate location.
- Make sure that children cannot gain access to the keys or combinations for the lockboxes.
- Do not keep an unlocked gun in your vehicle.
- When using firearms for target practice or hunting, always keep the safety engaged. Do not lay a firearm down that is loaded.
- The AAP does not recommend allowing children to handle firearms. It says that children are not responsible or capable enough to handle a lethal weapon, even with proper instruction about safely shooting a gun.
- Before allowing children to visit a home, ask about guns in the home. If there is an unlocked gun in the house, parents may want to reconsider allowing their children to play or stay in that home.
- Talk to kids about guns. Remind them that if they see a gun, do not pick it up. Tell an adult about the gun immediately.
Children as young as three years old are strong enough to pull the trigger on a gun. Each day, 87 children, teens, and young adults are killed or injured by guns in the United States.
What Should You Do if Your Child is Charged with a Gun Crime?
If your teenager is charged with a crime, do not allow him or her to talk to the police. Cooperating with the police by answering questions or giving a statement without an attorney present is not in your child’s best interest.
Call a criminal defense attorney immediately to represent your child. A defense attorney can work to keep the matter out of adult court, which is better for your child. An attorney advises you and your child of your child’s legal rights, investigates the case, and prepares a defense strategy that may help keep your child out of jail.