MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee police are investigating after they say a 3-year-old boy got ahold of a gun Saturday and accidentally shot himself.
Mayor Tom Barrett said the alleged owner of that gun wasn’t allowed to have it in the first place.
“It just goes to the insanity that is occurring right now where you have a felon, again, my understanding is a felon, who was not permitted to have a gun, leaves the gun unattended and a little boy dies,” Barrett said.
Police said a 26-year-old man was arrested in connection to the unintentional shooting. The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s report shows the toddler accidentally shot himself in the kitchen of a home on Milwaukee’s north side.
“It’s so sad when this happens, because it’s so preventable,” said Anneliese Dickman.
Dickman is the Milwaukee program director of the Brady Campaign, an organization that urges gun owners to keep guns secure and out of children’s hands. She said 70 percent of unintentional child shooting deaths could have been prevented by properly storing firearms.
“Obviously storing your gun unloaded, secure, away from ammunition is the best way to go, but maybe it’s a point in your life where having a gun just isn’t worth the risk,” Dickman said.
According to the Brady Campaign, more than half a million guns were sold in Wisconsin last year. That’s a 61 percent increase from 2019.
While licensed gun stores and dealers are required to administer background checks for all gun sales, Wisconsin law does not require them for secondhand sales after the fact. Dickman said 1 in 5 guns sold legally wind up on the black market that way.
“Right now, we know that there’s a flood of these illegal guns that are ending up on our streets, especially in Milwaukee,” she said.
National data shows 142 kids lost their lives in unintentional shootings last year, up from 120 in 2019 and 103 in 2018.
Locally, Dickman points to new data from the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin where doctors treated 79 children for gun injuries last year. That’s a 100 percent increase compared to the year prior and a new record for the hospital.
“There are going to be legal consequences when this happens,” Dickman said. “We’re not asking you to do this just because you should do it, you legally have to ensure that your children cannot access your firearm.”
While gun locks can be found at Milwaukee police and fire stations along with health centers, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said eliminating these tragedies will take an all-hands-on-deck approach from the community.
“When we think about how to solve this, it’s not one program, it’s not one law, it’s not just one policy,” Crowley said. “It’s going to take us as a community to step up and really have some tough conversations. One is, why do we have to have guns everywhere around us? Why do we have to allow them to stay out to where young people have access to them?”
The Milwaukee Police Department said seven children have been shot and killed in Milwaukee so far this year. That’s up from four during the same time period in 2020. Non-fatal shootings of children have also increased more than 50 percent in 2021.