Gun and ammo left on a table. wusfnews.

A recent investigation has revealed that the majority of accidental shooting deaths among children in the United States can be attributed to them misidentifying guns as toys or inappropriately handling them in domestic settings. Alarmingly, the study found that over nine in ten firearms involved in these fatal incidents were not properly stored — they were left both unlocked and loaded.

Dr. Nichole Michaels, senior author of the study and principal investigator, said of the study:

“It’s worth trying to figure out, ‘how do we encourage parents to embrace safe storage?’ ”

“Because that’s the way that we prevent these fatalities. These are preventable deaths: We can keep guns out of the hands of toddlers and older children.”

The research, which was presented this Monday in the academic journal, Injury Epidemiology, conducted a detailed analysis of instances spanning almost ten years where children under the age of 15 unintentionally shot themselves or another child. In the majority of cases, the tragic incidents occurred within the child’s own residence, and in 80% of instances, the firearm was owned by an elder family member.

Particularly concerning was the finding that toddlers between 2 to 4 years old were the most common victims, accounting for over 40% of the unintentional fatalities.

According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), firearms are the primary cause of death for children and teenagers in the United States. It’s estimated that for each child who loses their life to gun violence, at least two more are treated for gun-related injuries in emergency rooms, costing the US healthcare system a staggering $109 million each year just for initial hospital stays.

To conduct this study, researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio analyzed cases where children and teenagers unintentionally discharged a firearm, leading to a fatality. The National Violent Death Reporting System, a CDC database that collates information surrounding violent deaths from sources such as coroners’ reports, hospital records, and death certificates, was used in this investigation.

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