On Saturday, 4-year-old Eric Cole fired on himself in an accidental shooting at his babysitter’s house in Crown Point, Indiana.
Mark Back from the Lake County Sheriff’s Department said police arrived at the house at roughly 10:50 a.m. There, they went into an upstairs bedroom and found the child had gotten hold of a gun hidden in a case under the bed. Young Eric Cole had apparently opened the case, taken out the gun, pointed it towards himself, and fired. He was taken to Franciscan Health Hospital where, a physician declared him dead at 12:06 p.m.
Back told the Times of Northwest Indiana the fatal shooting “appears to be an accident.” He adds the coroner has not yet listed the cause of death. Although the Lake County Sheriff’s Department and its Crimes Investigations unit have launched an investigation, they do not expect to file any charges.
Eric Cole’s tragic accidental shooting is not unique. The Children’s Firearms Safety Alliance — a non-profit described as a “coalition of physicians, law enforcement, prosecutors, lawmakers, and gun violence prevention advocates” — reports some disturbing numbers for child-involved shootings in 2016.
• 63 toddlers picked up a gun and pulled the trigger
• The youngest victim was 13 months old
• 111 kids under the age of seven unintentionally shot themselves or someone else
• There were 318 incidents where a child under the age of 18 gained access to a loaded firearm
UPDATE: Kiki Eich Podkul, who is close to Eric Cole’s family, set up a GoFundMe page to help with his memorial and other expenses incurred by his grieving parents. Podkul’s goal is to raise $10,000 and well wishers have donated over $4,000 so far.
The CDC under-reported child-involved accidental shootings by 83 percent in 2015.
And these are just the child-involved shootings that were listed as such. In Dec. 2016, the official U.S. government stats from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) claimed 77 kids under the age of 18 died in accidental shootings for the year 2015.
But USA TODAY reports they’ve found the number to be much higher.
“A review of shootings nationwide by The Associated Press and USA TODAY Network found that at least 141 deaths of minors were attributed to unintentional or accidental shootings in 2015 — 83% higher than what the Centers for Disease Control reported.”
The CDC agrees their numbers are too low. Coroners often misclassify these child shooting deaths as homicides (when one child is shot by another) instead of as accidental shootings. In addition, when children like Eric Cole die after accidentally firing on themselves, coroners often list the cause as “undetermined” when they can’t rule out suicide.
USA Today‘s findings echo the New York Times‘ groundbreaking research on child-involved accidental shootings from 2013. That year was full of gut-wrenching news stories. The following three incidents happened within a few weeks of each other.
- In Ohio, 3-year-old Lucas Heagren pulled a.45 pistol out from under the couch and fatally shot himself in his left eye. When his mother called 911, she cried out, “It’s bad. It’s really bad.”
- In Georgia, 11-year-old Cassie Culpepper’s 12-year-old brother jokingly took aim and fired at her as they rode in the back of a pickup truck. Their dad had given him the pistol to “scare coyotes” and he thought it was empty. It wasn’t.
- In Texas, a group of teens and tween-age kids were scrounging around for money to buy snacks when they found a Glock in a closet. While a 15-year-old was holding the pistol, it went off and shot 11-year-old Alex Whitfield dead.
The New York Times pored over reams of data and — like USA Today — found that these unintentional child deaths by firearms happened about twice as often as entered in the records. In eight states alone, the New York Times found a total of 259 deaths by accidental shootings for children under the age of 15.
They also noted that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has consistently pushed back on safe gun storage laws, as well as “smart guns” that can only be fired by the person who owns them. The NRA also has a “fact sheet” dated August 2016 (at the time of this writing) that insists — falsely, according to the New York Times — that children are more likely to die from falling, poisoning, and “natural/environmental factors” than from accidental child-involved shootings.
But a June report from Newsweek flattens those claims. According to their research, Gun violence is now the “third leading cause of death for U.S. children.”
“Though we constantly see examples in the news, child gun injuries and deaths may be even more prevalent in the United States than we realized. A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics showed that an average of 5,790 children in the United States receive emergency room treatment for gun-related injuries each year, and around 21 percent of those injuries are unintentional.Based on the numbers from 2012-2014 for minors under age 18, an average of 1,297 U.S. children die each year from wounds inflicted by firearms. Ahead of shootings come deaths by illnesses and actual accidents.”
Based on the numbers from 2012-2014 for minors under age 18, an average of 1,297 U.S. children die each year from wounds inflicted by firearms. Ahead of shootings come deaths by illnesses and actual accidents.
[Featured Image by Cowlick Creative/iStock]