A toddler shot a man in the face in Houston, Texas, on Saturday, in what is merely the latest in a long succession of serious injuries or deaths involving small children who somehow get their hands on loaded firearms.
Patrick Sanders, age 20, was listed in critical condition after being rushed to Ben Taub Hospital in Houston sometime after 8:30 in the morning. The three-year-old toddler, whose name was not being released, apparently picked up the gun from the floor. When Sanders tried to take the gun away from the little boy, the weapon discharged, causing the toddler to shoot the man in the face.
The incident occurred when Sanders fell asleep with his loaded gun in a couch in the living room of an apartment on Wenda Street in Houston’s upscale Cullen Park neighborhood. The gun was reportedly in the pocket of Sanders pants when he dozed off on the couch.
As some point, the loaded weapon fell out of Sanders’ pants and onto the floor. The gun did not fire at that time, but the toddler spotted it and picked up the gun. Sanders then attempted to snatch the gun out of the little boy’s grasp — and the toddler accidentally shot Sanders in the face.
Why Sanders decided to fall asleep with a loaded gun in the pocket of his pants remains unclear.
The toddler was not hurt by the weapon and the police are investigating, but they are treating the shooting as an accident.
Gun accidents involving toddlers are alarmingly frequent, though exact numbers are not available, because no agency compiled those statistics. A New York Times study in 2013 found that the number of gun deaths involving children under the age of 15 was being severely underestimated because of the varying ways individual states and law enforcement agencies classify gun deaths.
The news site Opposing Views last year put together a list of 11 gun deaths in the first five months of 2013 in which the person pulling the trigger was a child between the ages of three and six years old.
The site also found 10 more cases of toddlers shooting and injuring other people — or themselves — in that same time period, along with nine more cases in which the shooter was between the ages of seven and 19 years old.