A 3-year-old girl found a loaded gun in a Texas home and accidentally shot her sister, killing the 4-year-old on Sunday.
Firearms recently became the number one cause of death for children in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle deaths and those caused by other injuries.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the girls were in the bedroom of an apartment in Houston, where they lived with their parents, around 8 p.m.
Five adults, who were all family members or friends, were in other parts of the home when the girls were unintentionally left unsupervised, Gonzalez said.
He said one parent thought the other was watching the girls, and they were left alone in a bedroom. The 3-year-old girl found a loaded pistol and fired a single shot, the sheriff said.
“The 3-year-old gained access to a loaded, semi-automatic pistol. Family members heard a single gunshot. They ran into the room and found the small toddler, 4-years-old, unresponsive,” Gonzalez said.
At some point during the night when Gonzalez said one parent thought the other was watching the girls, they were left alone in a bedroom.
The 4-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene after family members heard the shot, secured the gun and called 911.
Houston is the most populous city in Texas and it is the fourth most populous city in the United States after New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, as well as the sixth most populous city in North America.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Police Chief Troy Finner called on Texas lawmakers to pass what they’re calling “common sense gun laws.” Turner wanted Texas to reverse its permitless carry law, to increase the age to buy an assault weapon from 18 to 21, and the city has had a number of gun buyback events.
Despite such efforts, there are more firearms in American than there are people and scientific research has repeatedly found that where there are more guns there is more homicide and more gun violence.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican leaders in the state have repeatedly weakened gun laws, most notably by allowing anyone to carry handguns without a license or training in 2021, less than two years after mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa took the lives of 30 people.
“It’s astounding to me,” said state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat from San Antonio whose district includes Uvalde, where 19 children and two adults were killed in a shooting at an elementary school. “We’re supposed to create things. We’re supposed to create legislation to keep people safe. By God, to keep children safe. And here we’ve done exactly the opposite.”
The shooting appears to be accidental. It’s unclear if any charges will be filed in connection with the shooting, but under state law, no arrests can be made in cases like this for at least seven days in order to give families time to grieve.
Guns – including accidental deaths, suicides, and homicides – killed 4,357 children (ages 1-19 years old) in the United States in 2020, or roughly 5.6 per 100,000 children.
The U.S. is the only country among its peers that has seen a substantial increase in the rate of child firearm deaths in the last two decades (42%).
All comparably large and wealthy countries have seen child firearm deaths fall since 2000. These peer nations had an average child firearm death rate of 0.5 per 100,000 children in the year 2000, falling 56% to 0.3 per 100,000 children in 2019.
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