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In-Depth: Unintentional child shootings and the trauma left behind in Milwaukee

Child shot and killed
Posted at 4:59 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 19:37:42-04

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee police are investigating the tragic death of a 3-year-old boy. Investigators say the toddler got a hold of a gun and unintentionally shot himself Friday morning.

The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) says 15 people, ages 18 and younger, have died in shootings this year alone in Milwaukee. That's a 67 percent increase compared to the same time last year. What you can't see in those statistics is the trauma left behind.

As a trauma therapist, Simmone Kilgore knows the pain of losing a child in a shooting often sticks with their family and loved ones their whole life.

"It will never leave you," she said. "The shock, the confusion, the anger, the self blame, the guilt, there's so many emotions that we can identify that parents generally feel and family members."

That's why Kilgore says each time a child is killed by gun violence or an unintentional shooting in Milwaukee, she is responsible for reaching out to those families through the Office of Violence Prevention (OVP). They offer free support, counseling and connections to other families who have experienced the same grief.

"There is hope that you can maintain some type of healthy lifestyle even in that loss, even in that pain," she said.

Friday morning's tragedy involving the 3-year-old is the second time a toddler gained access to a gun inside a Milwaukee home this year and unintentionally shot themselves. According to Everytown Research, an organization that advocates for gun safety, seven kids under the age of 10 were unintentionally shot last year in Milwaukee after getting a hold of a gun. The website says two of whom died.

"We like to call them unintentional shootings because accidents make it sound like they can't be prevented," said Anneliese Dickman.

Dickman works for the Brady Campaign, a non-profit dedicated to reducing gun violence by advocating for policy changes in Wisconsin and across the country. She says more than half a million guns were legally purchased in Wisconsin in 2020, followed by nearly the same amount last year.

"These are mostly handguns, so of course those are the most at risk for children to access in the home and use," she said.

Dickman says studies show 70 percent of unintentional child shooting deaths could have been prevented if the guns used were stored securely.

"That means storing it in a place that's locked, inaccessible to children, storing it unloaded, keeping the ammunition stored separately and if you use like a cable lock, that makes the gun inoperable as long as that lock is there so all those things add up, each layer of protection adds up and it really does improve the ability for parents to keep their kids safe," she said.

Free gun locks can be found at every Milwaukee police district along with Milwaukee libraries and health department locations. The Office of Violence Prevention says they have given out thousands so far this year.

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