Report: More kids die in shootings than statistics show

Report: More kids die in shootings than statistics show

Credit: Josh T. Reynolds for USA TODAY

Ann Marie Crowell holds the last photo taken of her son Brian before the 12-year-old was accidentally shot in the neck and killed by a friend on Christmas Eve, in 1997.

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by Natalie DiBlasio

WHAS11.com

Posted on June 25, 2014 at 6:51 AM

(USA Today) -- Two children die almost every week in unintentional shootings — far more than government statistics show — according to a new study by Everytown for Gun Safety.

Medical examiners sometimes categorize shooting deaths of children as homicides or suicides before investigations or court proceedings are complete, and that puts more young lives at risk, says the gun-control group's president, John Feinblatt.

"If you don't have the right numbers, then you don't understand the scope of the problem and how to prevent it," Feinblatt says. "If fewer gun owners left their guns loaded and unlocked, fewer children would be killed."

His group examined every publicly reported case of a child gun death from Dec. 15, 2012, through Dec. 14, 2013.

The study found 100 unintentional deaths in 35 states across the country — 61% higher than the average number of unintentional gun deaths reported annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2007 through 2011.

In most of the deaths, the shooter was a child playing with a gun.

"Toddlers have the highest risk of unintentionally shooting themselves," says Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America , a part of Everytown for Gun Safety, which is backed by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. "In the news we hear: 'Toddler shoots baby. Toddler shoots himself.' This doesn't happen in any other developed nation, and it shouldn't happen in ours."

Watts says Congress should allocate funding for the CDC to study accidental shootings, standardize what defines them and figure out what can be done to prevent them.

"There are not enough laws to ensure that with rights come responsibilities," say Watts who believes that states should pass laws to prevent child access to guns and prosecute gun owners who do not store guns properly. "These are preventable deaths - 70% of them could have been avoided if gun owners had just stored their guns responsibly."

"We study everything in this country — even pool safety. There are even laws about how to prevent a child from being stuck inside of a refrigerator," she says. "But the gun lobby has been very effective in stopping any kind of research on this."

Congress said in 1996 that none of the funds for injury prevention at the CDC could be used to promote gun control.

Andrew Arulanandam, managing director for public affairs at the National Rifle Association, says that if Congress hadn't acted, the taxpayer-financed CDC study could be used to create propaganda promoting gun control.

"We have no reason to have any faith in the Obama administration doing anything other than abusing their authority and taxpayer resources to further a political agenda," Arulanandam says.

Having the CDC study guns would equate gun ownership with a disease, he says.

Gun death statistics vary because medical examiners nationwide have different standards and definitions.

"The NRA has successfully lobbied against any funding for the Centers for Disease Control to decide how they categorize deaths," Feinblatt says. "The CDC is just dependent on the individual habits of different medical examiners."

"How medical examiners determine manner of death is going to vary around the country," says Randy Hanzlick, chief medical examiner in Fulton County, Ga. "Examiners approach things differently based on their culture and their training."

Some consider any death in which one person shoots another with a firearm a homicide, no matter the age or cause.

"A homicide is death at the hands of another," says David Fowler, chief medical examiner in Maryland. "It doesn't matter if that person is 5 years old, 10 years old or 85 years old. A firearm is a weapon. It's designed to kill people. It doesn't have a dual purpose. If it shoots, fires and kills, it's not an accident."

Oakland County Medical Examiner Ljubisa Dragovic says medical examiners need to look into the details of a case and not use broad definitions to determine what is and isn't an accident.

"If you have a small child playing with a loaded gun and they pull the trigger and shoot themselves, there is every reason to give solid consideration that it might be an accidental death," Dragovic says. "That child does not know how dangerous this object is."

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