By Mark Follman
You’ve heard this story before, the one that played out again the week of Thanksgiving—this time in Lakeland, Florida—where 2-year-old Taj Ayesh got his little hands on his father’s loaded pistol, pulled the trigger, and crumpled to the ground. You may have heard about 9-year-old Daniel Wiley, who was playing outside his house in Harrisburg, Texas, when a 13-year-old mishandled an unsecured shotgun, blasting Wiley in the face. You may also have heard about 2-year-old Camryn Shultz of Forty Fort, Pennsylvania, whose embittered father put a bullet in her head before turning the gun on himself. Maybe you didn’t hear about the case in which a child shot others and then committed suicide, but that also happened this year. Twice.
A year after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mother Jones has analyzed the subsequent deaths of 194 children ages 12 and under who were reported in news accounts to have died in gun accidents, homicides, and suicides. They are spread across 43 states, from inner cities to tiny rural towns.
Following Sandy Hook, the National Rifle Association and its allies argued that arming more adults is the solution to protecting children, be it from deranged mass shooters or from home invaders. But the data we collected stands as a stark rejoinder to that view:
- 127 of the children died from gunshots in their own homes, while dozens more died in the homes of friends, neighbors, and relatives.
- 72 of the young victims either pulled the trigger themselves or were shot dead by another kid.
- In those 72 cases, only 4 adults have been held criminally liable.
- At least 52 deaths involved a child handling a gun left unsecured.