According to an article in the Sacramento Bee, a 3-year-old girl found a loaded gun in an apartment bedroom in Lemoore, CA and shot herself in the head. Detective Matthew Smith of Lemoore police reported to the Fresno Bee that the family of the girl had been visiting from Southern California. The residents of the apartment did not own the gun and were not present when the girl found it – the weapon was registered to one of their friends. No one has been arrested, but the resident and gun owner may face civil and criminal penalties for reckless endangerment of a child and negligent storage of a firearm.
Accidental Firearm Death Statistics
According to articles written about the subject, the number of child deaths resulting from gun use each year is unknown. The data exists, but it has not been compiled or put together by anyone. The National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS), launched by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2002, combines death certificate data, but only operates in 18 states. The figures it reports are therefore not national and should not be interpreted as such. However, across the 17 states for which it has data from 2011, 11 firearm deaths resulted from a person younger than 14 years old pulling the trigger in that year alone. The true number of deaths is likely to be significantly higher across all 50 states.
Victim’s Legal Rights
In California, a court may find that a reasonably careful person would have taken greater care than the apartment lessee or firearm registrant did in order to ensure that the 3-year-old didn’t find and discharge the firearm. In that case, both the apartment lessee and firearm registrant may be liable for harm caused to the child and her family. The family would be able to collect damages for both economic and non-economic harm, including but not limited to funeral and burial expenses as well as damages for the family’s grief and mental anguish. If you or someone you know has suffered a wrongful death in the family due to negligent storage or handling of firearms, call an experienced California personal injury or wrongful death attorney in your area to help you through your tragic and difficult situation.