Accidental shootings kill more Louisiana children. The solution? The group says: Shut your guns Crime / Police

A young boy died of a bullet in the stomach last month after he accidentally fired his mother’s loaded pistol, which he found in their hotel room in Lafayette.

A few weeks ago, police said a 3-year-old boy accidentally shot himself and a 3-year-old girl inside a home in Shreveport – killing himself and putting the girl in hospital. The shooting followed the killing of a 4-year-old boy who shot himself while playing with a pistol he discovered in the back of his mother’s car in New Orleans.

And when a 3-year-old boy in the Gardere district of Baton Rouge was playing on the sofa in March, he found a pistol folded under the pillows. The gun exploded, hitting the boy in the head, sending him to the hospital in critical condition.

Nearly 40 other children in Louisiana have met the same fate since 2015, according to a database maintained by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that advocates for the safe use of firearms. Since the group began tracking fatal and non-fatal accidental shootings of children nationwide seven years ago, Louisiana has been the most occupied of any state.

The data shows that the problem is getting worse.

Unintentional fatal shootings by children in Louisiana rose 31 percent between March through December 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. 2021 saw the highest number of incidents between January and June of the past seven years, according to a study the group released in the past. August.

“In Louisiana and the South, guns are a part of people’s lives,” said Ashley Politz, MD, director of the Louisiana chapter of the American Pediatric Association. “I think that height kind of pulled the curtain down a little bit.”

Alliance comes together

Now, a coalition of police, doctors and advocates across the state is banding together to push a simple solution: teaching people how to store their guns more safely.

A campaign that Everytown for Gun Safety launched last month aims to educate people about different ways to safely store their guns.

Dubbed “BeSMART” – which stands for “Safe, View, Ask, Know, Tell” – the campaign primarily focuses on teaching people how to store firearms safely in their homes and cars, and places where children have recently found and accidentally fired guns .

The group says in a prospectus that so-called “lockboxes,” which come in various sizes for use in homes and cars, and gun safes are some of the relatively inexpensive storage tools that make gun ownership safer. Other tools include trigger locks and cable locks.

The group plans to get these messages to Louisiana residents through flyers in doctors’ offices, by giving police a message to distribute to citizens, and by training volunteers to make presentations. Clergy, teachers and some public health officials are also present, according to Noah Levine, a spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety.

Shannon Sian, a volunteer with the initiative in New Orleans, said the eclectic coalition involved in the project came together due to the widespread impact of gun violence, in a state where gun murders are frequent.

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“All of these people, they deal with the day-to-day consequences of gun violence,” she said. “They see families and communities on the other side of a gun violence incident.”

‘Not a political statement’

Public health academics at Harvard University’s Injury Control Research Center have identified three major factors in accidental gun deaths. They say more guns contribute to more unintended deaths, as do unsafe gun storage practices. Young people are more likely to be killed by other young men. Older brothers are often the shooters in such situations.

Health experts also said that simply owning a gun poses a basic level of risk to homeowners.

But in a country where studies have shown that more than half the population owns a registered firearm, and where guns can represent a way of life associated with hunting and protection, simply teaching people how to store their guns is more practical than the pursuit of ownership. Defenders say.

“This is not a political statement about whether or not children should carry guns and what it looks like,” Politz said. “It’s really about safety and just keeping kids safe. It makes a lot of suggestions about ways kids can do it that seems doable and achievable.”

Deputies from the EBR Sheriff’s Office are investigating the scene of the shooting, Saturday, March 12, 2022, on Siegen Lane in Baton Rouge, Los Angeles.

Politz and Lacey Kavanaugh, the Louisiana Department of Health regional director and member of the state’s Child Mortality Review Committee, are participating in the BeSMART campaign.

Kavanaugh said the commission’s work has found that locking up guns in the home significantly reduces the risk of gunshots and deaths.

She said the impact of those deaths could extend to schools, sports teams, families and friends.

“A lot of people don’t realize that even though the primes aren’t huge, the effects are huge,” Kavanaugh said.

This effect was on display in New Orleans’ Marrero neighborhood one August night in 2016, after a bullet accidentally fired by a 9-year-old boy killed his 5-year-old brother, Melvin Brady. His mother had just crossed the street for a few minutes to look after a neighbour.

Soon, shots rang out. Family members who gathered outside the child’s home after the shooting were inconsolable. Someone simply shouted “Baby!” The child’s body was placed in the back of a black Coroners office SUV.

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