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New Report Details Incidents Of "Kids Shooting Kids"

Violence Policy Center (VPC) Report Documents More Than 200 Stories from Across the Nation of Children and Teens Shot Unintentionally by Other Youth

A new Violence Policy Center (VPC) report released today compiles news accounts of 222 shootings from 40 states involving children and youth unintentionally killing or injuring other children and youth. In compiling the 277-page report, Kids Shooting Kids: Stories From Across the Nation of Unintentional Shootings Among Children and Youth, the VPC used a national clipping service over a nine-month period to collect news accounts from daily and weekly newspapers of reported incidents of unintentional shootings among children and youth 17 years of age and younger. The report analyzes the circumstances surrounding these incidents and concludes that many could be prevented by requiring the firearms industry to meet minimum safety standards.

The report comes three weeks after a federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report analyzed firearm-related deaths for children under age 15 in 26 countries and found that 86 percent of the deaths occurred in the U.S. The CDC study also revealed that for unintentional firearm-related deaths for children under the age of 15, the rate in the U.S. was nine times higher than in other countries studied.

Violence Policy Center Director of Federal Policy Kristen Rand states, "All too often mere statistics create an artificial separation from the victims they actually represent. In addition, often left uncounted are the family, friends, playmates, and whole communities whose lives are changed by the death or injury of a child from an unintentional shooting. The more than 200 incidents detailed in Kids Shooting Kids illustrate how children and youth are paying the price for the ready availability of firearms and the gun industry's special exemption from safety regulation." Some of the patterns identified in the report include:

  • A number of incidents involved very young children shooting one another. For example:

    Two-year-old Kaile Hinke was shot in the chest by her three-year-old brother, Colton. Colton found the loaded 25 caliber pistol in a drawer in his parents' bedroom, where he and Kaile were playing while their mother was in another room. Kaile was driven to Lee Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

  • A number of incidents involved siblings. For example:

    Eleven-year-old Jonathan Kelly was shot by his 16-year-old brother James as the teen was preparing to clean a 12-gauge shotgun. In 1992 Jonathan had been diagnosed with cancer of the kidney, but following chemotherapy his cancer went into remission and he was able to rejoin his fourth grade class at Montpelier Elementary School. James Kelly bumped the shotgun against a snack bar in the family's kitchen, causing the gun to discharge. Jonathan was taken to Ball Memorial Hospital, where he later died.

  • A number of incidents involved firearms belonging to parents or grandparents. For example:

    Eight-year-old Ronald Sherer was killed when the 38 caliber pistol that he was playing with discharged, striking him in the face. Ronald had taken the handgun from under his mother's pillow as she slept. Despite the presence of a trigger lock, the handgun fired as Ronald's 10-year-old brother tried to take it away from him. Ronald was transported by ambulance to University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

  • In a number of incidents children removed the gun they used from a locked gun cabinet or safe. For example:

    Gina Bernard, age 14, was shot by Brian Swires, also 14 years old, after Swires took his father's 22 caliber pistol out of its locked cabinet, which he had done on several prior occasions. Swires thought that he had unloaded the handgun, but a bullet remained in the chamber. Bernard was taken to Denver General Hospital where she died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Adds Rand, "The gun industry is the last unregulated manufacturer of consumer products. Many of these unintentional shootings could have been prevented if the gun industry were subject to the same minimum safety standards that apply to virtually all other manufacturers."

The study includes recommendations that the gun industry be subject to the same safety regulations that apply to all other manufacturers of consumer products, and that gun manufacturers be required to equip their products with such safety devices as: load indicators, which alert a user that the gun's chamber contains a bullet; magazine disconnect devices, which prevent a gun from firing once the ammunition magazine has been removed: minimum trigger-pull standards, which help prevent very young children from being able to pull a gun's trigger; and positive, manual safety devices, which are designed to ensure that firearms will not discharge unintentionally when dropped or bumped.

Copies of the full 277-page report are available from the Violence Policy Center.

The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.

   For Release:
   Tuesday, March 4, 1997

   Kristen Rand
   Violence Policy Center

   Josh Sugarmann
   Violence Policy Center