By Mark Follman
In testimony given a few weeks after the mass shooting in Newtown, gun rights lobbyist Gayle Trotter emphasized to US senators that the best way for women to keep themselves and their children safe was to be armed. “An assault weapon in the hands of a young woman defending her babies in her home becomes a defense weapon, ” she said.
In terms of danger to children, Trotter couldn’t have been more wrong. According to our latest investigation, in the past year at least 194 kids ages 12 and under were killed by guns, in towns and cities across 43 states. And the vast majority of them were killed in homes—127 in their own, and another 30 in the homes of relatives, friends, or neighbors.
In 39 cases, children were shot intentionally in their own homes by their parents or adult guardians, accounting for more than a third of the 103 total homicides. And out of 84 total accidental shooting deaths, at least 49 involved kids handling a firearm left unsecured inside a home.
Moreover, when it comes to the accidental gun deaths of children, adults are rarely held criminally responsible. In 72 cases in which a child or teen pulled the trigger, killing themselves or other kids, we found only 4 cases in which an adult was convicted. Charges may still be pending in some cases. In part that may be because only 14 states and the District of Columbia have strong negligence laws with respect to children and firearms.