Children and guns can be a deadly combination. Yet statistics show there's a loaded weapon in 1 out of every 10 U.S. homes with children. In this Call For Action investigation, Betty Sexton looks at what happens when kids find a gun in the playroom.
You may not keep a handgun in your home, but what about your children's friends and their families? If your youngster came in contact with a weapon, how would he or she react? It's a question we explored with the help of Colorado Springs Police.
Officer Brett Iverson loaned us his department-issued weapon, a Smith & Wesson 9mm semi-automatic handgun. After making sure no bullets were in the chamber, he left the weapon in a downstairs playroom. He placed it in plain sight, on a chair by a toy box.
Then, without any mention of the gun, we asked 12 children to play in that room. They had no idea two hidden cameras, loaned to us by Palm Vid, were watching their every move. And hidden in an upstairs room, their parents were watching anxiously.
"A gun!" It only took 54 seconds for the oldest in the group to spot the gun. William, age 10, immediately picks it up. While examining it, he unknowingly points it at the other children. "Oh! This is real! Oh my gosh!" William sets it down and his 8-year-old brother Wynston grabs it. "Wynston, don't pull it! It's real! It's real! Put it down," said William.
While the girls play on the floor unaffected by it all, the boys are overcome with curiosity. Bailey, age 7, reaches for the weapon next, only to be stopped by his older brother Garrett. Then 7-year-old Taylor runs over to take a look and is pushed away by Bailey.
And 23 seconds after spotting the weapon, William runs upstairs to tell the parents. "We have a gun downstairs!"
In the meantime, Devin, age 3, comes over and picks up the weapon. "It was kind of real heavy. Then it was big, heavy when I hold it," he says. "I was hoping he would stay back behind and just wait for someone to come downstairs to actually take a look at the gun and remove it. But, you know, he actually went through and picked it up," said his mother.
Afterward, the children talked about finding the weapon. This was William’s reaction—he was the boy who first spotted it. "When I first saw it on the chair I thought, ‘Oh yeah, a gun! Let me go play with it.’ And all of a sudden, it looked sort of real."
His little brother Wynston: "I thought it was a play gun, but then when I picked it up, it was heavy and then I thought it was a real gun."
The other children were just as candid about their feelings:
- "I was scared," said Madison.
- "It will shoot somebody and then they die," said Briana.
- "I was kind of scared," said Jeremy.
- "It could be serious and dangerous," said Bailey.
- “Someone could have got killed," said Sierra.
- "I didn't want to touch it because it was real," said Makayla
- "It could kill somebody. It could blow up a house and people could die," said Taylor.
- "They should hide them in a secret place," said Garrett.
As for the parents, they all say they'll use this experiment as a learning experience. "I'll talk to them further about it for sure, ‘cause one of my sons did get up and look at it." And one parent has this to say to her child: "I wish you wouldn't have touched it, but you did. Now you know what it feels like. Now you should never, ever, touch another one. There is no reason to."
Statistics from the National Center of Health show that in the year 2000, close to 100 U.S. children, from infants to age 14, were killed when a gun accidentally discharged.
Officer Brett Iverson says Colorado Springs Police answer numerous accidental discharge calls every year. He says the message parents should pass on to their children is simple, yet critical. "Stop! Don't touch! Get away! Tell an adult. That's the most important thing. Don't even look at it. Don't even touch it. Just get away and tell and adult."
Officer Iverson says gun safes are the best place to store weapons. But he also suggests simple precautions, like storing weapons and ammunition in separate places. And one more thing to motivate you, police tell us parents can face felony charges for the accidental discharge of a gun.
To help keep your family safe, KKTV, the Colorado Springs Police Department and Project Childsafe have teamed up. We're giving away free gunlocks to prevent such accidents.
To get your free gunlock, which can be used on any weapon from a rifle to a handgun, head to the Colorado Springs Police Operations Center this Saturday, February 14th. Betty and Colorado Springs police will be handing them out from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.