In recent days, Pennsylvania has been devastated by several unintentional shootings involving children. On Monday evening, a 5-year-old boy was shot and killed by his 6-year-old sibling. Reports indicate that the siblings gained access to an unsecured firearm in a bedroom of their home in Penn Hills, PA. Also on Monday, a 4-year-old boy in Pittsburgh shot and killed himself with an unsecured firearm — authorities believe it was unintentional. Another shooting occurred last Wednesday in Philadelphia, when a 2-year-old boy unintentionally shot himself with an unsecured firearm located in an upstairs bedroom of the child’s home.
As gun sales and gun violence have increased over the last year, so have unintentional shootings by children. During the pandemic, unintentional shootings by children have increased significantly, according to data from the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. According to the #NotAnAccident Index, there have been at least 321 unintentional shootings by children under age 18 in the U.S. this year, resulting in 132 deaths and 205 injuries nationally. In Pennsylvania, 118 children and teens ages 0–19 die by guns every year.
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, an increase of 800,000 children since 2015. An Everytown report published in August of 2021 found that between 2015 and 2020, there were at least 2,070 unintentional shootings by children resulting in 765 deaths and 1,366 injuries. Teenagers ages 14 to 17 are most often the shooters and victims in these unintentional shootings, followed by toddlers and preschoolers ages 0 to 5.
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.
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 can be found here. Information on secured storage devices can be found here. If you are interested in speaking with a policy or research expert, please don’t hesitate to reach out.