Report: Accidental shootings among children spiked by nearly one-third in 2020

Across the Puget Sound, incidents involving guns have increased, making guns safety top of mind. Alarmingly, statistics show more children are losing their lives due to gun violence.

As a state, Washington has the 39th highest rate of gun deaths in the U.S., according to Everytown, a For Gun Safety organization.

In fact, they say firearms are the leading cause of death in children and teens followed by poisoning, car accidents, cancer and suffocation.

Professor of Pediatrics with UW Medicine Doctor Fred Rivara says Washington started the Firearm Tragedy Prevention Program following a growing issue – community gun violence – which persists today.

"We're all concerned about the level of firearm violence in our community," Dr. Rivara said.  "30% of children in the state of Washington live in homes with firearms."

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He says of the 30%, 20 to 30% of those children live in homes where firearms are not properly stored – meaning they’re left unlocked.

"It's really a matter of trying to keep firearms out of the hands of children," Rivara said.

Nationally, 492 people unintentionally die by gun in an average year, according to Aftermath.

As of February, of this year – 209 children under 17 years of age have died by gunshot and an additional 519 were hurt.

In Washington, an average of 60 children and teens die by guns every year.

Moms Demand Action says they’re neither pro nor against guns but rather gun safety and firmly believe these incidents can be preventable.

"They're 100% preventable," Shannon Mayo, a gun violence prevention lead with the organization said. "If you have firearms, you need to lock them up. You need to lock up your guns separate from your ammunition and under no circumstances should you let your kids know what that combination is."

The organizations says the pandemic has also been a stressor for families.

The uncertainty led to higher gun sales – a 70% increase in March 2020 compared to 2019.

Accidental shootings among children spiked by nearly one-third between March to December 2020 compared to the same months in 2019.

"The majority of the unintentional accidental shootings, like the one that happened down a Federal Way, are where kids get access to a gun that's in a household owned by a family member," Rivara said.

While police have not made that determination in this case, Dr. Rivara says his concern is the family, the neighborhood and community following the tragedy.

"These are life-changing events that happen, and I think with the increase in number of guns in homes, we really need to do whatever we can to make sure that these guns are out of the hands of children," Rivara said.

So how can proper gun safety lower the number of incidents?

If you keep your gun at home Aftermath suggests:

  • Treating the gun as though it’s always loaded
  • Get a training course on how to handle a gun
  • Use the right ammunition
  • Never rely on the gun’s safety to protect you
  • Lock guns safely

Moms Demand Action is just one of the organizations pushing for legislation to promote effective state and local efforts to reduce preventable injuries and deaths from daily gun violence in Washington.