Firearm Accidents Involving Children
Firearm injuries are the second leading cause of death among American children. More than 7,000 children—some 20 a day—are hospitalized for gun-related injuries each year in the U.S., according to a study published in the February 2014 edition of the journal Pediatrics. The cause of injury in over 2,000 of these hospitalizations is categorized as “unintentional.”
Many of these accidents are preventable and occur because the firearm hasn’t been properly stored or secured.
Storing Guns to Prevent Firearm Accidents
Gun owners are responsible for ensuring that guns are not accessible to children and other unauthorized users. Proper storage is essential. Gun owners must consider using one or more of the following storage and safety features to prevent gun accidents:
- Gun Safes – A gun stored in a safe or lock box is less prone to unintended use. Keeping stored guns unloaded helps prevent a tragedy. Gun owners cannot be too careful when children are in the home.
- Disassembly – Assembling a firearm takes knowledge and time. Storing guns unassembled provides another layer of protection against unauthorized use.
- Storing without Ammo – Storing ammunition in a separate location from the firearm is another way to help prevent a tragedy.
- Locks – There are a number of different locks that can be installed on a firearm to prevent unauthorized discharge. These locks include trigger locks, chamber locks and cable locks.
Portland Ordinance 14A.60.050 “Endangering a Child by Allowing Access to a Firearm” makes it a crime for a person in possession or control of a firearm to fail to prevent unauthorized access by a minor. The penalty increases if the minor carries the firearm off the premises; the penalty increases even more if the minor carries the firearm off the premises to any school, school-sponsored or school-related event. Gun owners in other jurisdictions should check for local ordinances pertaining to the storage of firearms.
What to Teach Your Child About Guns
Firearms are prevalent in our society. Even if there are no guns in the home, it is always possible for a child to encounter a gun in the home of a neighbor, friend or relative. Parents should teach children what to do if they discover a firearm and an adult is not present:
- Stop. The first rule for a child that discovers a firearm is to stop what he or she is doing.
- Don’t Touch! The second rule is for a child not to touch a gun that he or she finds. A child may want to pick up the gun and take it to an adult. The best practice is for a child to never touch a firearm outside the presence of an adult.
- Leave the area. The third rule is to immediately leave the area. This includes not trying to take a gun from another child or trying to stop someone from using the gun.
- Tell an Adult. The last rule is to tell an adult that he or she has found a gun. This includes finding another child playing with or shooting a gun.
Gun Safety Rules
Gun safety training seeks to instill a mindset of safety and responsibility. Firearms are inherently dangerous, and must be handled with respect and an appreciation for their destructive capability. There are many formulations of the essential rules for gun safety. One of the most well known set of rules was popularized by Colonel Jeff Cooper, the creator of the “Modern Technique” of handgun shooting. Colonel Cooper advocated for four basic rules of gun safety.
- All guns are always loaded. This rule encourages a certain mindset for safe gun handling. In particular, it eliminates the excuse that “I didn’t know the gun was loaded.” When a handler assumes that every gun is always loaded, there can be no mistakes about whether a particular gun, in fact, is loaded.
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy. This rule is designed to minimize the danger from an unintended discharge. The handler must assume that the gun can fire at any time. A corollary is that guns should never be pointed playfully or as a joke at a person or non-target.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target. The handler’s finger should be off the trigger and outside the trigger guard. This rule is designed to avoid an unintentional discharge. A handler’s finger can unintentionally depress the trigger if the handler is startled or not paying attention to his or her body movements. This rule also helps reduce the risk if a handler stumbles, falls, or attempts to holster a handgun with his or her finger on the trigger.
- Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. This rule is intended to minimize the potential danger when a firearm is intentionally discharged. The target must be correctly identified. The handler also must consider what happens if the target is missed or the bullet passes through the intended target.
In the vast majority of “accidental” discharges, the gun handler violated one or more of these rules. If everyone followed these rules and stored their guns properly, tragedies involving firearms would be greatly reduced.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a firearm accident, you may have a claim against the shooter, owner or purchaser of the firearm. If the firearm or ammunition was defective, it may be possible to obtain recourse against the manufacturer, seller or distributor of the defective product. Kline Law Offices P.C. Portland Personal injury attorneys can help you get the compensation you deserve. Click here for a free case evaluation.