SEATTLE — Five teenage boys were making sandwiches at a friend’s house when a boy brought out his step-father’s shotgun. One of the teens didn’t believe it was real, so he grabbed it and pulled the trigger, fatally shooting his 13-year-old buddy in the chest.
Eddie Holmes was one of more than a dozen Washington state children who were injured or killed since 2014 when they or another child mishandled an unsecured firearm, according to an investigation by The Associated Press.
Across the nation, more than 1,000 children were killed or injured in accidental shootings from 2014 to June, according to cases documented by the Gun Violence Archives. That tally far exceeds federal estimates. Congress restricted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ability to conduct gun violence research, but the Washington Department of Health has continued to collect data on how many people in the state keep guns loaded and unlocked, as well as accidental shootings.
In 2015, about 259,000 Washington adults lived in a household with guns that were loaded and unlocked, according to an agency survey.
In 2014 alone, there was one death and six injuries resulting from accidental shootings of children younger than 18, the agency said. Those seven cases were among the 113 children killed or injured nationally in 2014.
In some cases, the gun owners faced criminal charges, but in other cases, no charges were filed.
“My son is dead, it was unintentional but there were no consequences,” said Eddie’s mother, Sandy Aponte. “I just don’t understand it.
“I miss him every day.”
Prosecutors say they have limited choices when it comes to filing charges in these cases. Washington state doesn’t require the safe storage of firearms and trying to prove that the gun owner acted recklessly or with criminal negligence is difficult, they say.
Some lawmakers have tried to pass a law requiring the safe storage of firearms in the home, but those efforts have repeatedly failed.
After an intentional shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School in October 2014, Seattle Children’s Hospital began holding events to give away lock boxes and trigger locks for free, said Dr. Mark Del Beccaro, chief medical officer. They’ve held eight events and gave out more than 2,500 gun lock boxes and trigger locks so far. Then next one is scheduled for Oct. 29 in East Wenatchee.
“It’s a tragedy that’s preventable,” Del Beccaro said. “The data is clear both for accidental shootings and adolescent suicides. If guns are locked, those rates go down. That’s why we’re involved.”
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.