gofundme Leighton Owings
Police say a 2-year-old Indiana boy found a loaded handgun Tuesday as his mother was in another room feeding an infant.
The gun went off, Indiana State Police say in a news release. The 2-year-old, Leighton Owings, was struck by a single bullet and died at a hospital from his injuries.
His death was among at least 270 unintentional shootings so far this year, resulting in 109 deaths, by children 17 or younger in which they shot themselves or others, according to the organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which is part of the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety.
"Storing guns locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition keeps guns out of kids’ hands and can save lives," the groups report.
Owings "was smart, funny and fun to be around," according to a GoFundMe post seeking donations to help the family plan his funeral. "He loves his family and loved life."
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Preliminary evidence indicates Leighton pulled the trigger on a 9-millimeter Ruger while his 22-year-old mother, Caci Seals, tended to her infant in a front room of the family's North Main Street residence in Fairmount, say the state police. They are continuing to investigate the death.
A call by PEOPLE to Grant County Prosecutor Rodney L. Faulk about possible charges was not immediately returned.
According to Moms Demand Action, in early December, "an 11-year-old boy shot and killed himself while online learning at home in Woodbridge, California. A week earlier, a 12-year-old boy in Henderson, North Carolina shot and wounded a classmate of the same age at Henderson Middle School. These heartbreaking shootings are a reminder of the consequences when children get a hold of unsecured guns."
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"As children and teens continue to stay home from school because of the pandemic and holiday breaks allow for more free time, isolation and boredom, the importance of storing guns securely cannot be understated," the organization adds.
Unintentional shootings by children increased across the country as COVID-19 kept people home during the earliest stages of the pandemic, as evidenced by a 43 percent increase in such shootings between March and April, compared to average gun deaths during these same two months over the previous three years, according to statistics.
The Be SMART program launched by Moms Demand Action advocates five steps to keep kids safe from guns:
Secure all guns in homes and vehicles
Model responsible behavior
Ask about firearms in other homes your child visits
Recognize the role of guns in suicide
Tell your peers to Be SMART
"Assume children and teens can find guns," the program advises. "Store firearms locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition."