Early last week, a Georgia man was shot fatally by a toddler. According to a statement issued by the Savannah Police Department this week, a child under the age of two, found a gun and fired it, striking a man who later died from his injuries.
Every year, hundreds of American children gain access to firearms and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. Between March and December of 2020, there was a 31 percent increase in unintentional shooting deaths by children of themselves and others, compared to the same time period in 2019. According to the #NotAnAccident Index, there have been at least 330 unintentional shootings by children under age 18 in the U.S. this year, resulting in 135 deaths and 212 injuries nationally.
Secure firearm storage plays a vital role in reducing unintentional shootings and gun suicide. Research shows that to protect children and teens, gun owners should store guns unloaded, locked, and separate from ammunition. An estimated 54 percent of gun owners don’t lock all of their guns securely, and it’s estimated that 5.4 million children live in a home with at least one unlocked and loaded gun. Just last week, the Atlanta School Board passed a resolution promoting the secure storage of firearms. The resolution commits the Board and Superintendent to increase efforts to inform district stakeholders of the importance of secure firearm storage.
Georgia has some of the weakest gun laws in the country. In an average year, 1,603 people die and 4,492 are wounded by guns in the state. Georgia ranks 10th in the nation for the rate of gun deaths and injuries resulting from unintentional shootings by children. More information on Georgia gun violence can be found here.
The Be SMART program, developed by the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Moms Demand Action, helps parents and other adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries, youth suicides and gunfire on school grounds.
The program encourages parents and adults to:
- Secure all guns in their home and vehicles
- Model responsible behavior around guns
- Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes
- Recognize the role of guns in suicide
- Tell your peers to be SMART
For more information on the Be SMART program and how to safely secure your firearms, visit the Be SMART website. Additional information about unintentional shootings is here. If you are interested in speaking with a policy or research expert, please don’t hesitate to reach out.