Missouri lawmakers will consider a bill that would hold adults accountable in negligent child shootings. The state had the highest rate of accidental toddler shootings in 2015.
The legislation, H.B. 2500, was formally introduced on Feb. 29. Democratic state Rep. Stacey Newman introduced the bill, according to KMIZ.
If the bill is passed into law, adults could be prosecuted for child endangerment if they “knowingly fail to secure a readily available, loaded deadly weapon in the presence of a child less than 17 years of age.”
Adults found guilty of not securing their firearms in the presence of children could face a four-year prison sentence. That sentence could be upgraded to five to 15 years if a child is injured by the firearm. If a child dies due to firearm negligence, the adult could be sentenced between 10 to 30 years or life in prison, according to KMOV.
“This legislation promotes easy safe ways that everybody can do their part … as simple as buying a gun lock or a gun safe or putting it unloaded out of the reach of a child,” said Jefferson City lead homicide prosecutor Mary Pat Carl.
In 2015, five Missouri toddlers were involved in shootings, St. Louis Magazine reports.
In February 2015, a 3-year-old boy accidentally shot himself with a handgun. In July 2015, three separate 3-year-olds shot themselves after discovering a loaded gun. One of those toddlers died from her wounds.
In August 2015, a 21-month-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself with a gun.
“2 year old shot and killed… I’m at a lost [sic] for words,” tweeted Hanley Hills Lt. Col. Troy Doyle. “This should be bothersome to us all.”
Across the U.S. 43 children wounded themselves or others with an unsecured firearm in 2015.
Newman’s bill would punish adults whose negligence leads to these tragedies.
St. Louis and Kansas City prosecutors have partnered with Newman to try to get the bill passed.
“I don’t think we wait for this to be a common problem,” said Carl. “We’ve seen children get their hands on guns and either shoot themselves accidentally or another child and I think we have a responsibility to prevent those things for happening.”