Detroit pledges tough response to 'epidemic' of child gun deaths

At least 8 children have accidentally shot themselves with unsecured guns in the last 17 months, the prosecutor says

Feliks Garcia
New York
Thursday 26 May 2016 16:16
<em> Ron Chapple/Getty</em>
Ron Chapple/Getty

A Detroit prosecutor announced criminal charges against two families linked to separate accidental shootings involving children handling unsecured firearms - one child died, the other was injured. The charges come amid a torrent of injuries and fatalities caused by children playing with guns in the home.

The office of Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy filed manslaughter charges against Frederick Davis, 65, and Patricia McNeal, 65, whose 5-year-old granddaughter, Mariah Davis, died from a gunshot wound to the neck. Mariah had found the gun under her grandparent’s pillow, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Ms Worthy also announced charges against Joseph Williams, 80, and Andrea Drewery, 30, the great-grandfather and mother of a 4-year-old boy who accidentally shot himself in the hand with an unsecured gun found in the house. The two were charged with second degree child abuse.

“Everybody in this universe knows that Detroit has an issue,” Ms Worthy at a told reporters on Wednesday. “Detroit and Wayne County have huge issues with children dying from firearm use. And no matter how much we sugarcoat it or say it’s not so or try to cover it up with stats about crime going down, it still remains an issue that we have to address.”

Ms Worthy cited the number of recent accidents involving children handling unsecured guns, saying that it was an urgent public health matter for the city. In the past 17 months, eight children in the county were killed or wounded because they handled guns left unsecured in households.

In these cases, the guns were legally owned, but the owners did not take proper precautions to secure them.

“Most of the time, children know where they are, even if parents think they don't,” the prosecutor added. “And all of this is totally and completely and absolutely preventable.”

According to Centers for Disease Control data, 868 children under the age of 14 have been killed in accidental shootings. In October of 2015, the Washington Post found that at least one person had been shot per week in incidents involving toddlers with firearms. Of the 43 counted at the time of the report, 31 suffered self-inflicted gunshot wounds - 13 of which were fatal.

The John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health published a study in February that found that seven states in the US - Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee - high significantly high rates of accidental gun deaths. Researchers pointed out that none of the states had laws requiring the safe storage of the guns, NBC reported.

In Michigan, gun merchants are required to include a lock or gun-safe with all sales, but owners are not required to use them.

To address what she called a “troubling” crisis in Wayne County, Ms Worthy said she is speaking with heads of hospitals in the county to launch a campaign about responsible gun ownership.

She added that the state of Michigan needed to pass “child access prevention” laws that require gun owners to secure their firearms.

So far, only 18 US states have such laws.

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