Kanawha County Capt. Sean Crosier said a loaded firearm should have never been kept near a little boy who accidentally shot his 4-year-old sister in Cross Lanes earlier this month.
However, West Virginia is not one of the 11 states with laws requiring guns be locked away or that ammunition be kept separate. Gun safety advocates have highlighted these laws as an important component to preventing accidental and intentional gun deaths in children.
“Why was a live firearm within reach of children loaded? It should have been in a locked box, unloaded with the ammunition in a separate area,” Crosier told reporters.
Several studies have shown that about 55 percent of American children live in homes with access to unlocked firearms, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“The presence of unlocked guns in the home increases the risk not only of unintentional gun injuries but of intentional shootings as well,” according to the center. “A 1999 study found that more than 75 percent of the guns used in youth suicide attempts and unintentional injuries were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative or a friend.”
Ninety-four children and young adults have died from firearms between 1999 and 2010 in West Virginia, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of those deaths, 14 were considered accidents and 40 were deemed suicides.
Eleven states have laws concerning firearm-locking devices. These devices include a wide range of disabling devices to keep unauthorized users from gaining access to guns.
Massachusetts is the only state that generally requires that all firearms be stored with a lock in place; California, Connecticut and New York impose this requirement in certain situations, according to the center.
On April 7, deputies believe Kasey Seymour, 4, was accidentally shot by her 5-year-old brother as her parents slept at a mobile home off Hurley Drive in Cross Lanes. The little girl suffered a nonfatal wound to her arm.
John Lewis Seymour, 23, and Tabitha Lauren Bowen, 24, were both charged with child neglect resulting in injury. The parents had left a loaded small-caliber firearm within their children’s reach, police said.
Seymour and Bowen are being held in the South Central Regional Jail in lieu of a $10,000 bail. Earlier this week, Kanawha County Magistrate Brent Hall ordered that the couple be placed on home confinement if they post bail.
According to the order, the couple may not live together or have contact with their children. They would also be subjected to random searches and drug tests. The couple could not have access to guns, according to the order.
Reach Travis Crum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5163.