WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a run on guns and ammunition with many people arming themselves to keep safe in uncertain times.
But a new study shows those weapons may place thousands of children’s lives in grave danger. The study looked at gun-related child fatalities and laws designed to protect children.
It found that Pennsylvania is among half of all states whose laws with that in mind are sorely lacking. The study calls for a new Child Access Protection law (CAP) in Pennsylvania.
“The idea of a children’s access protection law is it’s a law meant to reduce fatalities and injuries among children,” said Boston Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Eric Fleegler.
The study by Boston Children’s Hospital looked at states which do and do not have either a gun-specific recklessness law or negligence law on the books.
“It turns out that in Pennsylvania, they fall into the category of no laws whatsoever,” Fleegler said.
The study looked at the years from 1991 to 2017 after most CAP laws were enacted. Nine states have a recklessness law in place which targets gun owners who provide a gun to children and 16 other states have negligence laws which hold parents or guardians responsible for not taking proper steps to prevent gun access to kids.
“What it means is if all states were to pass these laws we would see of the 13,697 children who died during this time period, over a thousand of them wouldn’t have died,” Fleegler said.
Dr. Fleegler says if states were to adopt the most stringent laws – the ones taking aim at gun storage negligence – the impact would be profound.
“We’d see about a 29 percent reduction which means that nearly 4,000 of those children who died would not needed to have,” he told Eyewitness News.
The study results aim to serve as a serious wake-up call as more and more of us arm ourselves during the coronavirus crisis.
“When we look at Pennsylvania between the year 2010 and 2018, there were 145 young children who died from firearms,” Fleegler said. “These children do not own these guns. These are needless deaths.”
Even before the coronavirus crisis, more than 4.5 million children lived in a household where guns were loaded and unlocked. Dr. Fleegler says by locking and unloading these guns and keeping ammunition separate, we really have the possibility of reducing these gun-related child fatalities.