On Monday night, two teenage boys were shot and wounded in an unintentional shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas. According to reports, one of the boys was handling a gun when a bullet was unintentionally discharged, injuring one boy in the arm and the other in the back. Both were treated and discharged from a local hospital.
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 284 unintentional shootings by children under age 18 in the U.S. this year, resulting in 116 deaths and 183 injuries nationally.
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. A recent Everytown report 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.
Arkansas has weak gun laws and a high firearm death rate. In an average year, 565 people are killed by guns in Arkansas, and 555 more are wounded — many in incidents including gun suicide, community gun violence, domestic violence, and others that don’t always make the news. Arkansas ranks 11th in the nation for the rate of gun deaths and injuries resulting from unintentional shootings by children.
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 is here. If you are interested in speaking with a policy or research expert, please don’t hesitate to reach out.