FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – There were five kids admitted to Cook Children’s Medical Center, with gunshot wounds, this past weekend. Health workers there say they can’t ever remember seeing so many injuries involving weapons and young people in such a short time period.
The shootings left a 4-year-old boy dead and a 6-year-old fighting for his life after being shot in the head with a rifle.
“These are all injuries that are very preventable and we want to be able to bring that to folks and let them know there are ways to be able to keep your children safe,” said Dr. Daniel Guzman with Cook Children’s.
Long before the recent rash of child shootings Cook Children’s started the Aim for Safety program, an initiative meant to help adults protect children from accidental shootings.
According to officials at the hospital, in Texas there were at least 26 children, from newborns to 11-years-old, who were accidentally killed in 2017 because of an improperly stored gun. Their website says, “One out of every three homes with children in the U.S. has a gun. In Texas, 36% of adults have a household firearm, and over 199,000 children currently live with unlocked loaded firearms in their home.”
The Aim for Safety program also offers parents an opportunity to find out, firsthand, what their child would do after discovering a firearm.
Parents look at their children through a one-way glass as a group of children are taken into a waiting area filled with seating areas and toys. The kids are instructed that computers in the room “are not to play with” but given no other restrictions.
With cameras looking at the kids from several angles and watching the parents reactions, it takes less than 10 seconds for one of the boys to open a box and find a real gun — that is unloaded and has firing pin… but the kids don’t know that. One of the boys quickly looks to see if the adults are still in the room and then turns his attention back to the weapon.
“As soon as they picked it up, started looking right down the barrel, I was like ‘oh my gosh,’ anything we talked about just went in one ear and out the other,” said Dr. Chad Hamner, whose children participated in the program.
Another boy puts down his toy, walks over and peeps into the box asking, “Is that a real gun?” The boy who opened the box picks the gun up and seems to look down the barrel, essentially pointing the weapon at his own head. He then turns the weapon to examine it from the side and put his finger in the barrel, all the while pointing the gun at the other curious child.
Eventually the child who never touched the gun is distracted by another boy playing with real toys and walks away. A few seconds after the puts it back in the box — again checks to see if anyone is looking — closes it and goes to play.
The exercise is meant to show parents how their children would react when finding a gun and how quickly the lives of children can be taken or horribly altered when encountering firearms. In this particular video instance the entire incident happened over the course of just 36 seconds.
Aim for Safety encourages adults to focus on safe storage by taking a number of steps, including making sure firearms are unloaded, locked and placed out of reach of children, as well as storing ammunition separately and always using trigger locks and gun boxes.
Parents are also urged to teach children that if they see a gun they should:
- Don’t touch
- Run away
- Tell a grown up
Adults are also urged to inquire about environments outside their home by asking parents of their child’s friends if they have guns in their homes and how they are stored.
Aim for Safety advocates say it’s important to educate children about what they should do if they find a gun and never “assume that a child doesn’t know where the guns in the house are hidden or that they do not know how to operate one.”