The New York Times reported last fall on accidental shootings involving children, in a long article that discussed the difficulty of tallying gun deaths due to inconsistencies in reporting from state to state. The newspaper was able to cite records from only five states, but counted 259 children killed in gun accidents since 1999 in those states — and the report has been frequently cited since its publication as the conversation about gun laws continues to develop.
Accidental shootings, regardless of the age of the victim, are traumatic for everyone involved. Even non-fatal shootings have the potential to permanently incapacitate the victim. A common factor in many accidental shootings, especially those involving children, is the negligence or irresponsibility of the gun owner.
Too often, guns are not properly stored or secured. Leaving a weapon loaded or in an unlocked cabinet provides the opportunity for young people to access it. Children playing with a gun may think it’s not loaded, that they know what they’re doing, or even that it is not a real gun. If they’re young enough, as in the case of toddlers, they may not know what it is at all. As the report examines in detail, these are contributing factors in many accidental shootings.
Other times, there may be evidence of a defect or malfunction in the gun itself, for which the manufacturer may be liable. In some cases, the firearm may be marketed in a way that doesn’t adequately warn the buyer of potential risks. In others, the design of the firearm may be flawed in a way that increases the risk of injury. There are also cases in which the firearm was safely designed but an error occurred during its manufacture that introduced an unexpected risk.
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