Young children shoot themselves, other kids and adults with stunning frequency in the U.S., reports The Trace. Between September 1, 2014, and September 1, 2016, a child under the age of 13 was the perpetrator in at least 300 acts of gun violence, resulting in 102 deaths and 198 injuries, says the Gun Violence Archive. The vast majority of those shootings were unintentional, the result of a child playing with an unsecured firearm found in a drawer, a a purse or the backseat of a car. In all but a few instances, the shooter was a boy, and the gun usually belonged to a parent who had not properly locked it away. Shootings by young children pose a challenge for law enforcement officials: Who is responsible when a kid using an unsecured firearm kills or injures another person?
Some prosecutors have sought to hold gun-owning parents accountable. In Pennsylvania, a 26-year-old father was charged in September with endangering the welfare of a child after his 2-year-old son shot and killed himself. In New Jersey, a 22-year-old mother is awaiting trial after one of her young sons killed his brother. Usually, nothing happens. “Prosecutors are hesitant to bring charges against grieving parents,” says Daniel Webster, a gun violence researcher at Johns Hopkins University. The National Rifle Association opposes laws requiring storage of firearms. It argues there is “no compelling need for such invasions of privacy.”