A child dies every other day from gun accidents in U.S.

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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:  A joint investigation by the “Associated Press” and “USA Today Network” has found in the first six months of this year, gun accidents killed at least one child in the United States every other day.  The report published yesterday analyzed more than 1,000 deaths and injuries from accidental shootings involving children ages 17 and younger between January 2014 and this June.

Joining me now to talk about this is one of the reporters of that story, Ryan Foley, a member of “A.P.’s” national reporting team focused on state government coverage.  He is in Iowa today.

First of all, what’s the purpose of the investigation?  What prompted it in the first place?

A joint investigation by the “Associated Press” and “USA Today Network” has found in the first six months of this year, gun accidents killed at least one child in the United States every other day.  The report published yesterday analyzed more than 1,000 deaths and injuries from accidental shootings involving children ages 17 and younger between January 2014 and this June.

Joining me now to talk about this is one of the reporters of that story, Ryan Foley, a member of “A.P.’s” national reporting team focused on state government coverage.  He is in Iowa today.

First of all, what’s the purpose of the investigation?  What prompted it in the first place?

RYAN FOLEY, ASSOCIATED PRESS:  So, we wanted to take a more comprehensive look at these shootings, why they were happening, who the victims were, what types of guns were being used.  And we also knew that there wasn’t a lot of government research into these questions.

HARI SREENIVASAN: How do we keep track of them today and what did your investigation look at?

RYAN FOLEY:  We started with data from the Gun Violence Archive, which is a national group that tries to track every single gun incident in the United States.  So, we took their data going back to 2014 and looked at more than 1,000 cases involving minors who were involved in these unintentional shootings.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Aren’t there statistics from law enforcement or through the government?

RYAN FOLEY:  The only government data that’s available comes from the CDC, and we found that, that data is very incomplete.  For 2014, they only listed 74 unintentional firearms deaths involving minors.  We actually found over 110.

And the CDC admits that it is undercounting these because many local coroners classify these shootings as homicides other than unintentional or accidental.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  It looks like different populations under 17 have higher rates.  Why do, you know, kids three and under have such a high rate?  What’s the similarity with teenagers?

RYAN FOLEY:  There’s a large spike in the number of these shootings involving three and four-year-olds.  In many cases, they’re able to access their parents’ unsecured loaded guns.  And they also pointed them back at their own faces, we found, and shot themselves by accident.

Then, the data shows there’s another large spike for children ages 15 through 17, and those usually involve groups of teenagers who manage to obtain a gun and it accidentally goes off and kills a sibling or a friend.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  What efforts have been made on either a national or state level to try to prevent these gun deaths?

RYAN FOLEY:  On the national level right now, there’s really not a lot going on.  Congress severely limited the funding that’s available back in the 1990s to the CDC.  Many former CDC officials will tell you that that’s been a major setback.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What about safer gun storage?

RYAN FOLEY:  There’s certainly a push, local and state level, to encourage safe gun storage, and that’s a key finding here.  But gun safety advocates will argue that a lot more does need to be done, first of all, to even study how big of a problem it is.

The government used to do an annual survey where they asked Americans how they stored their guns.  The CDC stopped asking that question in 2004 on a nationwide level.  And just this year, the state officials who run that survey decided not to reintroduce those questions.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  All right.  Ryan Foley of the “Associated Press” joining us from Iowa today — thanks so much.

RYAN FOLEY:  Thanks for having me.
So, we wanted to take a more comprehensive look at these shootings, why they were happening, who the victims were, what types of guns were being used.  And we also knew that there wasn’t a lot of government research into these questions.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  How do we keep track of them today and what did your investigation look at?

RYAN FOLEY:  We started with data from the Gun Violence Archive, which is a national group that tries to track every single gun incident in the United States.  So, we took their data going back to 2014 and looked at more than 1,000 cases involving minors who were involved in these unintentional shootings.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Aren’t there statistics from law enforcement or through the government?

RYAN FOLEY:  The only government data that’s available comes from the CDC, and we found that, that data is very incomplete.  For 2014, they only listed 74 unintentional firearms deaths involving minors.  We actually found over 110.

And the CDC admits that it is undercounting these because many local coroners classify these shootings as homicides other than unintentional or accidental.

HARI SREENIVASAN: It looks like different populations under 17 have higher rates.  Why do, you know, kids three and under have such a high rate?  What’s the similarity with teenagers?

RYAN FOLEY:  There’s a large spike in the number of these shootings involving three and four-year-olds.  In many cases, they’re able to access their parents’ unsecured loaded guns.  And they also pointed them back at their own faces, we found, and shot themselves by accident.

Then, the data shows there’s another large spike for children ages 15 through 17, and those usually involve groups of teenagers who manage to obtain a gun and it accidentally goes off and kills a sibling or a friend.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  What efforts have been made on either a national or state level to try to prevent these gun deaths?

RYAN FOLEY:  On the national level right now, there’s really not a lot going on.  Congress severely limited the funding that’s available back in the 1990s to the CDC.  Many former CDC officials will tell you that that’s been a major setback.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  What about safer gun storage?

RYAN FOLEY:  There’s certainly a push, local and state level, to encourage safe gun storage, and that’s a key finding here.  But gun safety advocates will argue that a lot more does need to be done, first of all, to even study how big of a problem it is.

The government used to do an annual survey where they asked Americans how they stored their guns.  The CDC stopped asking that question in 2004 on a nationwide level.  And just this year, the state officials who run that survey decided not to reintroduce those questions.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  All right.  Ryan Foley of the “Associated Press” joining us from Iowa today — thanks so much.

RYAN FOLEY:  Thanks for having me.

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