Tracking accidental shootings after child hit by bullet in Commerce City

The call of an accidental shooting to dispatch happens 19 times a day.

KUSA – A 3-year-old boy is recovering in the hospital after he was injured in an accidental shooting Wednesday in Commerce City. Police said the boy was shot in the armpit after his father cleaned a gun in the home on the 9700 Block of Nucla Street.

Police did not have an update on the boy’s condition Thursday but said he was stable at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Consider for a moment that a story just like this played out 19 times Thursday in the U.S. A comprehensive study done by a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 19 children are killed or wounded in shootings every day. Nearly 1,300 children under the age of 17 die from gunshot wounds every year.

“It’s a huge issue and it’s likely undercounted,” said Nick Penzenstadler.

Penzenstadler is an investigative reporter and project manager for USA Today. He’s been working on a project with the Associated Press that focused on deadly, accidental shootings involving children. The joint investigation revealed the problem is much worse than the CDC numbers suggest.

“In 2015, the CDC reported 77 deaths and we found 141,” Penzenstadler said.

The journalists collected information from the Gun Violence Archive, news reports and public sources to tally the number of accidental shooting deaths involving children ages 17 and younger. They determined that gun accidents kill one child every other day. Penzenstadler said many of the accidents happened after a parent had a momentary lapse in judgment.

“We found parents who had gun safes and left the safe unlocked or were cleaning their gun and forgot to put it away,” he said.

Penzenstadler said parents faced charges in about half the cases. “This is a tough choice for prosecutors. It’s a tough choice for the grand juries,” he said.

In the Commerce City shooting Wednesday night, police would only say that a case file was being prepared for the Adams County district attorney. The DA’s office will ultimately decide whether criminal charges are filed.

“They’re going to be looking at these mitigating factors of, is this completely out of the ordinary? Does this father normally take care of his weapon and this was completely out of character? Or is this a pattern and there have been problems in the past?” Penzenstadler explained.

The shooting in Commerce City is just one case, though it’s one sure to be repeated.

“These are by and large preventable injuries and deaths,” Penzenstadler said.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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