INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana has one of the nation’s highest per capita rates of accidental shootings involving children, ranking seventh behind states such as Alaska and Louisiana. Over a recent 2½-year span, 40 children were killed or wounded across the state. Another five cases involved kids accidentally killing or wounding an adult, including a 6-year-old boy who unintentionally shot and killed his own father at their home last winter.
The Associated Press and the USA TODAY Network analyzed the circumstances of every death and injury across the nation from accidental shootings involving children ages 17 and younger from Jan. 1, 2014, to June 30 of this year — more than 1,000 incidents in all. These are shootings in which children unintentionally shot themselves, other children or were accidentally shot by adults.
Using information collected by the Gun Violence Archive, a nonpartisan research group, news reports and public sources, the media outlets found the deaths and injuries are happening at a pace that far exceeds the scope revealed by limited federal statistics.
Here is a closer look at the issue in Indiana:
BY THE NUMBERS
Forty-five shootings, 29 children wounded, 11 children killed. In five of the shootings, a child pulling the trigger wounded or killed an adult. Per capita, there were nearly seven shootings per million people, which was about twice the national rate of just over 3.4 shootings per million people.
SPIKES IN THE GRAF
Conforming to a national trend, many of Indiana’s shootings involved toddlers. Ten child victims were age 2 or 3, while seven others were 12 or 13 years old.
INDIANAPOLIS HARDEST HIT
Eleven of Indiana’s accidental shootings involving children happened in Indianapolis. Gary was next, with five. The remaining 29 shootings were scattered throughout the state.
MOST OFTEN IT’S A HANDGUN
In at least 25 of the Indiana shootings, the weapon involved was a handgun. That matches the national pattern showing handguns are the most common weapon in these types of shootings. One shooting involved a rifle, and another a shotgun. In 18 cases, the firearm type was listed as unknown in the data.
IN THEIR OWN HOMES
Nationally, the shootings happened most often at the children’s homes, with handguns legally owned by adults for self-protection. In Indiana, 30 of the shootings, or well over half, occurred at the children’s homes or another residence. Five were in a car, six in a public area and two at a location identified as “unknown” in the data.
“MY LITTLE BROTHER IS NOT A KILLER.”
In the tiny southern Indiana town of Hartsville last February, James Lonaker had just returned from a night out, setting down his gun and getting ready for bed. Out of sight, his 6-year-old son picked up the .38-caliber revolver and shot him.
Sheriff’s deputies found the 62-year-old man with a gunshot wound to his upper body. He died in a helicopter on the way to the hospital.
Sheriff Matt Myers appealed to residents to keep firearms unloaded and safely stored away from children.
One of Lonaker’s adult children, Juli Lonaker, tearfully told a TV interviewer of their struggle to console the boy.
“Some of the headlines have used the word killed,” she said. “My little brother is not a killer. My little brother is a little boy that likes to play and have fun and he is a good, good little boy.”