On Saturday, a toddler died after unintentionally shooting himself in the stomach at a hotel in Lafayette. Just days before that, a Baton Rouge woman was hospitalized when her five-year-old son got ahold of her firearm and shot her in the leg. Earlier this month, two children in Shreveport were shot, one fatally, after gaining access to a gun. And in January, a 4-year-old fatally shot himself with a gun he found while sitting in his mother’s vehicle. These tragic shootings will leave permanent scars on the survivors, families, and entire communities, and they underscore a larger ongoing trend of unintentional child shootings across Louisiana.
As gun sales and gun violence have increased in recent years, so have unintentional shootings by children. According to Everytown’s #NotAnAccident Index, since 2015 there have been at least 2,523 unintentional shootings by children under 18 years old. Louisiana had the highest number of incidents, with unintentional shootings by children in the state resulting in at least 121 gun injuries and deaths. Guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens in the state.
Research shows that states with secure storage or child access prevention laws have the lowest rates of injury or death from unintentional child shootings. Louisiana currently lacks both of these policies. So far this session, state lawmakers have not considered any legislation that would require gun owners to securely store their firearms. Instead, legislators have focused their energy on a concerted effort to reintroduce dangerous legislation like permitless carry, which has been staunchly opposed by law enforcement, faith leaders, community members, and other key public safety stakeholders. To make Louisiana children safer from gun violence, state lawmakers should reject these efforts to further dismantle the state’s existing firearm laws and, instead, prioritize common sense gun safety policies that will actually save lives.
Louisiana has weak gun laws and the highest rate of gun violence in the United States. In an average year, 1,036 people die by guns in Louisiana, and 4,397 more are wounded. More information on gun violence in Louisiana is available here.