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Toddlers shoot people more than you think but it's preventable
A new report from The Washington Post has found that toddlers shoot people more than we think but it's preventable. - photo by Herb Scribner
Its not on purpose, but toddlers are shooting people on a weekly basis, according to The Washington Posts Christopher Ingraham, who sifted through data to find that at least 43 people have been shot by a toddler 3 years old or younger. A toddler shot himself or herself in 31 of those occasions, Ingraham found.

These incidents are more common in the plains states and the Southeastern United States, according to Ingrahams report. In fact, Missouri has had five separate events where a toddler has shot himself or herself. Florida and Texas sit right behind with four and three incidents, respectively, according to Ingraham.

In fact, as our own Tyler Stahle reported in May, a child shoots someone almost every 36 hours.

This news comes at a time when gun violence has increased overall in the United States, especially on the large-scale level. As I reported earlier this month, there have been more mass shootings in 2015 than there have been days in the year showing that the U.S. averages more than one mass shooting per day.

But as Ingraham noted and research like this 2013 investigation into gun violence and how it affects kids from The New York Times has backed up, these incidents are avoidable, especially if parents take proper precautions to secure their weapons and keep them away from children.

These arent accidents, according to a 2015 study from Everytown Research. Theyre preventable. More than two-thirds of these tragedies could be avoided if gun owners stored their guns responsibly and prevented children from accessing them.

Similarly, a study from researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill found that just 57 percent of adults lock up their guns in places where children cant find them, according to ABC News.

"This surprised me," Dr. Tamera Coyne-Beasley, senior author of the study, told ABC News. "I [thought] people who exercised good general safety habits would also probably have good firearm safety habits as well."

More so, 36 percent of families who own guns admitted in the study that they kept their guns loaded and 45 percent said they wont use locks on their weapons, ABC News reported.

That goes against Coyne-Beasleys advice for keeping children safe from guns.

"If you must keep a gun [at home] the safest thing to do is to unload [it] and keep it locked up, Coyne-Beasley told ABC News. Then keep the ammunition locked up and stored separately from the gun.

Still, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the best way to keep children safe from guns is to just not own one, or remove it from the home entirely. If parents do choose to own a gun, its important they store it somewhere other than where their child plays, the AAP reported.

Remember that young children simply do not understand how dangerous guns can be, despite parents' warnings, according to the AAP.

Its also important for gun owners to leave their weapon unloaded when its locked away, and to keep the bullets away from the gun, according to the AAP. Parents may also want to hide any keys that can give children access to the weapon.

What To Expect, a parental advice website, suggests parents also dont leave their guns around the home if they choose to clean them, and may even want to install a trigger lock for extra security.

But most important, What To Expect suggests that parents teach their children how to respond if they find a gun in the home to limit the amount of potential violence.

Teach your children these four rules so they know what to do if despite your best efforts they do find a gun unattended in your home (or at a friends or relatives): Stop. Dont touch. Leave the room immediately. Tell an adult. Repeat these rules early and often, What To Expect explained.

Simple conversations with your child can also help.

Have regular conversations about the violence your kids may see on TV, in movies, or in video games, and explain how thats different from what happens in real life, according to What To Expect. Keeping those lines of communication open and honest is one of the best ways to keep kids safe (no matter what the issue).

Organizations like Gun Free Kids also work to inform parents about proper gun safety. They also offer a wide range of tips and information for parents who own guns or are considering buying one.
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