THE BIGGEST THREAT OF PERSONAL INJURY TO KIDS ISN’T ASSAULT WEAPONS
“According to scientific literature, American children face a substantial risk of exposure to firearm injury and death,” a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute report points out, citing the following three statistics as part of a long list:
- There are approximately 120 guns in circulation in the U.S. for every 100 people.
- 1 out of every 3 homes with kids has guns.
- Among children, 89% of unintentional shooting deaths occur in the home. Most of these deaths occur when children are playing with a loaded gun in their parents’ absence.
“Shootings are now the third leading cause of death for U.S. Children”, a Newsweek headline reads, citing a study in the journal Pediatrics showing that an average of 5,790 children received emergency room treatment for gun-related injuries each year. And, in the Huffington Post, Nick Wing reports that “8 Children Are Accidentally Shot Every Day With Unsecured Firearms in the Home.”
As personal injury attorneys in Indiana, we at Ramey & Hailey law are acutely aware of the fact that, in recent years, Indiana has seen its share of accidental shootings involving children. In fact, one of the purposes of this personal injury blog is to reach innocent folks whose lives have been thrown off track after their children were victims of a gun accident. In just the past quarter year, we have been reading stories such as these:
Less than one month ago, a four year old girl from Lebanon, Indiana was shot in the head by her two year old brother while at their grandmother’s home.
One month earlier, in Logansport, Indiana, a toddler got hold of a semi-automatic weapon, shooting himself in the face.
The month before that in Marion, Indiana, a three year old boy accidentally shot his two year old brother in the living room of their home.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Indiana has one of the nation’s highest per capita rates of accidental shootings involving children.
Indiana has a Violent Crime Victim Compensation Fund, which strives to assist victims, or their dependents, with certain costs (including forensic exams, outpatient mental health counseling, and limited medical expenses) incurred as a direct result of violent crime. But when a child has died violently, not as the result of a crime, but because they or other innocent children had access to firearms, what then??
In most cases, parents are civilly (legally) responsible for their children’s actions. This means the consequences of a minor’s actions are the parents’ responsibility, requiring them to give compensation for injuries caused by their children. Parents who fail to effectively secure firearms out of the reach of children are inherently negligent. In the unfortunate event a child gets hold of a firearm and discharges it, causing injury or death, the injured victim or their family can take the parents to civil court, and/or the police can arrest and charge the child’s parent(s) with crimes. But what if the toddler who found and fired the gun is the child of those parents???
Can parents be charged for failing to keep their guns locked up? “Indiana provides that a child’s parent or legal guardian commits the crime of “dangerous control of a child” if he or she knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly permits the child (defined as a person under age 18) to possess a firearm.” The law includes the rule that caregivers in child care homes must keep all ammunition and firearms in a locked area inaccessible to children whenever children are present.
The biggest threat to our kids’ safety likely isn’t assault rifles, a lack of school security, or weapons that fall into the hands of the mentally ill. It’s the guns that are commonly found in our own homes, a Parents Magazine article laments. At Ramey & Hailey, we agree!