US News

Accidental shootings kill an American child every other day

Bryson Mees-Hernandez, a happy 4-year-old who loved Iron Man and the Hulk and all the Avengers, shot himself last January with a .22-caliber Derringer his grandmother kept under the bed. It was an accident, but one that could be blamed on many factors, from his grandmother's negligence to the failure of government and industry to find ways to prevent his death and so many others. The Associated Press and the USA Today Network set out to determine just how many others there have been. The findings: During the first six months of this year, minors died from accidental shootings — at their own hands, or at the hands of other children or adults — at a pace of one every other day, far more than limited federal statistics indicate.

When you are on the other side, you are going to see Mommy cry a lot. It's not because she's mad. It's because she misses you. It's not your fault.

Bryson's mother, Crystal Mees, recalls telling him

But whose fault was it? Tragedies like the death of Bryson Mees-Hernandez play out repeatedly across the country. Curious toddlers find unsecured, loaded handguns in their homes and vehicles and fatally shoot themselves and others. Teenagers, often showing off guns to their friends and siblings, end up shooting them instead. While accidental shootings account for only a fraction of firearm deaths in the U.S., gun safety advocates have long argued that they are largely preventable. They demand stricter laws requiring guns to be kept locked up and unloaded. But gun rights supporters argue those measures make guns less useful in emergencies. Gun safety advocates have urged a public health approach that includes more government research, more public awareness and stricter state laws. That is just what Crystal Mees is advocating in Texas after the death of her son at her mother's house.

Summarized by

1,000

INCIDENTS

AP — USA Today study

Using information collected by the Gun Violence Archive, a nonpartisan research group, news reports and public sources, the media outlets spent six months analyzing the circumstances of every death and injury from accidental shootings involving children ages 17 and younger from Jan. 1, 2014, to June 30 of this year — more than 1,000 incidents in all.

113

DEATHS IN 2014

Discrepancy in the numbers

Citing CDC statistics, the National Rifle Association argues in public statements that such deaths have declined significantly in recent decades and that the chance of a child dying in a firearms accident is "one in one million." The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 74 minors died from accidental discharges of firearms in 2014, the latest year for which comparable data is available. The AP and USA Today analysis counted 113 for that year, suggesting the federal government missed a third of the cases.

States in the South are among those with the highest per capita rates of accidental shootings involving minors.

Topic in-depth

Limits on gun research hamper efforts to combat gun deaths

It's the kind of information you might expect from long-range government research. Yet for the most part, such government research doesn't exist.
Associated Press