HARRISBURG, Pa. – Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America recently launched #NotAnAccident Index and interactive map, a first-of-its-kind tracking of unintentional shootings by children 17 or under across the United States. The index shows Pennsylvania suffered at least five unintentional shootings involving children, resulting in four injuries and one death in 2015—including shootings in Philadelphia, Upper Darby, Montoursville and Mercer County.
Nationally the #NotAnAccident Index indicates that since January 1, 2015, there have been at least 88 unintentional shootings involving children, resulting in 65 injuries and 25 deaths—that’s an average of one unintentional child shooting in America every 36 hours. The index is based on media coverage and police reports of instances where a child 17 years or younger unintentionally fired a gun and harmed either him or herself or another person.
“As a parent and grandparent, I was shocked to see how many unintentional child shootings there are here in Pennsylvania,” said Deb Marteslo, the volunteer chapter leader of the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action. “I do everything in my power to keep my grandchildren safe, but the reality that more than two million American children live in homes with unsecured guns and that once every 36 hours, a child unintentionally fires a gun and harms someone. That is unacceptable—as adults, we need to be responsible for gun safety. These are not accidents, they are preventable tragedies.”
The Pennsylvania shootings on the #NotAnAccident Index are:
• January 26, 2015, Montoursville, PA
A two-year-old boy found a loaded .45 caliber handgun in his mother’s bedroom and began playing with it, at which point it discharged, hitting him in the leg. The gun belonged to his mother’s fiancée, who was upstairs with his mother at the time of the shooting.
• March 5, 2015, Philadelphia, PA
17-year-old Ivan Oberholtzer found a gun inside his home and unintentionally shot and killed 17-year-old James Becker, a friend and classmate, inside Oberholtzer’s bedroom. It is not clear who owned the gun or whether it was owned legally. Police arrested Oberholtzer and charged him with aggravated assault and possessing a firearm under disability.
• March 21, 2015, Philadelphia, PA
A 14-year-old boy was playing with his father’s gun when he unintentionally fired it, injuring his 11-year-old sister. Police say the boy went into his parents’ bedroom and took his father’s gun from an unlocked dresser drawer without permission and was handling it when it fired; the bullet ricocheted off a wall before striking his sister in the back of the head.
• April 18, 2015, Mercer County, PA
A child younger than five years of age unintentionally shot and injured a nine-year-old girl with a 12-gauge shotgun. Police say the girl’s father had left the shotgun unattended after using it to shoot at animals.
• May 3, 2015, Upper Darby, PA
Shortly before midnight, a 16-year-old boy was with two friends and handling a sawed-off shotgun he was in illegal possession of when it discharged, hitting him in the foot. The two other boys ran off when the gun discharged, and police found the victim in an alley and transported him to a local hospital. As of May 4 he remained in critical condition. It is unclear who owned the gun.
In efforts to reduce the number of shootings by children, Everytown and Moms Demand Action recently launched the Be SMART campaign, a new public education campaign asking gun owners and non-gun owners alike to come together to reduce the number of unintentional shootings, suicides, and homicides that occur when firearms are not stored responsibly and children or teens get ahold of a gun. The campaign asks parents and caretakers to take five steps to help prevent shootings by children: Secure all guns in your home and vehicles; Model responsible behavior around guns; Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes; Recognize the risks of teen suicide; Tell your peers to be SMART. More information on Be SMART is available at BeSMARTforKids.org.
“The Be SMART campaign is a great way to get Pennsylvanians talking about basic gun safety and preventing further tragedy,” continued Deb Marteslo. “This campaign is not anti-gun, it’s pro-gun safety. The goal here is not to scare people or take away anyone’s rights, but rather to demonstrate that we have the power to help prevent these tragedies before they happen, and it starts with the Be SMART campaign.”
As part of the Be SMART campaign to promote gun safety in communities nationwide, Everytown and Moms Demand Action will provide one gunlock for every supporter who completes the online gun safety quiz on BeSMARTforKids.org to Moms Demand Action chapters to distribute at local gun safety awareness events.