This week, a 2-year-old boy found an unsecured firearm on a nightstand and unintentionally shot both his parents in West Bath, Maine. All three people were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. As unintentional shootings by children increased this past year, Moms Demand Action volunteers, gun safety advocates, and the newly formed Gun Safety Caucus have been urging lawmakers to pass legislation to prevent child access to firearms.
LD 759 would expand the state’s existing child endangerment statute to include those who leave unsecured firearms around children to prevent the owner of a firearm from leaving a weapon loaded in a place the person knows, or should know, a child is likely to access it.
“Studies have shown that secure storage legislation like LD 759 helps prevent unintentional shootings, like the tragic one in West Bath,” said Lynn Ellis, a volunteer with the Maine chapter of Moms Demand Action in Brunswick. “This family and countless others have had their lives changed forever. We need legislation to protect our children now.”
Unintentional shootings by children increased as Americans sheltered in place during the COVID-19 crisis, an analysis by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund shows. According to the #NotAnAccident Index, there have been at least 80 unintentional shootings by children in 2021.
Access to unsecured firearms contributes to gun violence among children and teens. Every year, nearly 350 children under the age of 18 unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. That’s roughly one unintentional shooting per day, and 70 percent of these incidents take place at a home. 2020 saw a 19 percent increase over 2019 in unintentional shootings by children of themselves or others. This represents 22 additional unintentional gun deaths and 39 additional unintentional nonfatal gun injuries as a result of shootings by children. Nearly 700 children in the US die by gun suicide each year, most often using guns belonging to a family member.
According to the CDC, in Maine, 80 percent of all gun deaths among children under 18 years old are suicides, compared to 40 percent nationwide. Unsecured firearms also fuel gun violence outside the home. In incidents of gun violence on school grounds, up to 80 percent of shooters under the age of 18 obtained their guns from their own home, a relative’s home, or from friends.
More information about secure storage legislation is here. Statistics about gun violence in Maine are available here, and information on how Maine’s gun laws compare to other states’ overall is available here.