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Polis Report

Playing With Guns

By Lea Aschkenas

In Jan. 15, 1996, 2-year-old Kaile Hinke was shot in the chest and killed by her 3-year-old brother, Colton, while they were playing with a gun found in their parents' bedroom. On Jan. 18, 11-year-old Jonathon Kelly was killed by his 16-year-old brother, who was preparing to clean a 12-gauge shotgun when it bumped against a kitchen counter and discharged. On Jan. 20, 8-year-old Ronald Sherer shot himself in the face and died when a gun he'd taken from under his sleeping mother's pillow discharged.

These stories are just a few among the 222 such tragedies detailed in the D.C.-based Violence Policy Center's (VPC) report on the unintentional shootings and killings of youth under age 17. The 277-page report, "Kids Shooting Kids: Stories From Across the Nation of Unintentional Shootings Among Children and Youth," compiles news accounts from 40 states during a nine-month period. The report follows a federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) analysis of firearm-related deaths for youth under age 15, which compiled data from 26 countries. The CDC found that 86 percent of the deaths occurred in the U.S.

" 'Kids Shooting Kids' illustrates how children and youth are paying the price for the ready availability of firearms," said VPC Director of Federal Policy Kirsten Rand. "Many of these unintentional shootings could have been prevented if the gun industry were subject to the same minimum safety standards that apply to virtually all other manufacturers."

Following this line of reasoning, the report recommends that gun manufacturers be required to equip products with safety devices to alert users when the gun's chamber contains bullets and to ensure that firearms will not discharge unintentionally when dropped or bumped.

Copies of the full report are available from VPC at 2000 P St. N.W., Suite 200, Washington, D.C., 20036, 202/822-2000.

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From the May 8-14, 1997 issue of Metro

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