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In the News

Accidental shooting teaches vital lesson
Midland Reporter-Telegram, 6/6/2000

originally posted at,2,&ver=2.11

By Jeff Stevens
Staff Writer

Every day, five children under the age of 19 die as the result of an accidental shooting or suicide by gun, according to Common Sense About Kids and Guns, a national nonprofit, nonpolitical group on gun safety.

And, as a tragic accident Sunday afternoon demonstrated, even Midland is not immune to the grim statistics.

Three-year old Micheal Chilcoat, of 3904 Cedar Spring St., built a makeshift stairway to the top of his parents' closet. In the top of that closet, he found his father Steven's loaded 9mm handgun. Micheal is then believed to have carried the gun into the backyard and climbed into an abandoned boat. At approximately 3:30 p.m., the child shot himself in the left eye. He was pronounced dead at 5:25 p.m.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, firearms (accidental, suicide and homicide) claim the lives of some 4,000 children under age 20 each year. Victoria Reggie Kennedy, wife of Sen. Edward Kennedy and founder of Common Sense About Kids and Guns, says most of the deaths are preventable.

"Most fatal firearm accidents and suicides occur when children and teens discover firearms at home that have been left loaded or unsecured," said Ms. Kennedy, reading a statement from the Common Sense About Kids and Guns Web site. "Because of the serious risk of firearm related death and injury to children and teen-agers, experts on all sides of the gun debate agree that the decision to keep a firearm in the home is very serious and one that must not be made lightly."

"So many of the injuries and deaths that are firearm related are preventable," Ms. Kennedy said via phone interview Monday evening. She added that the purpose of her organization is to prevent these gun related tragedies from happening.

Along the lines of prevention, Lt. Price Robinson, a training officer with the Midland Police Department said parents with guns in the home can take measures to minimize firearm death and injury to children.

"In my opinion, you could do one of two things. Keep the gun and ammunition separate or if they (parents) felt they had to keep a gun loaded, keep it locked in a gun safe or locked filing cabinet and keep the key somewhere where kids don't know where it is," Robinson said.

Additionally, Common Sense recommends talking to your children about guns, teaching children not to touch guns and to tell an adult if they find one.

"I think there is no question about it. Parents should tell children about guns and that they are dangerous," Ms. Kennedy said. "Parents have to take steps to make sure a child does not access a firearm."

She even recommends that parents investigate the accessibility of guns in places your children visit. Find out if there are guns at your children's friends homes, before allowing them to visit, Ms. Kennedy said.

"It's vitally important that before your child plays someplace else, that you ask. I think a parent is entitled to verify that," Ms. Kennedy said, adding that if there is a pool at the home, parents wouldn't hesitate to ensure proper supervision would accompany pool usage.

The American Academy of Pediatrics takes it even a step further. The organization's Web site includes the following statement.

"The AAP affirms that the most effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries to children and adolescents is the absence of guns from homes and communities," Ms. Kennedy said.

"Basically, the idea is that everyone needs to be informed and that it is an enormous responsibility. As adults we must take affirmative steps to protect our children from firearm related deaths and injuries," she said.

According to Tina Jauz, public information officer for the City of Midland, it is not yet known whether the parents of Micheal Chilcoat, will face any charges for allowing a minor access to the firearm.

Statistics on gun-related deaths among children is available at the Web site of the American Academy of Pediatrics.


The Common Sense About Kids and Guns Web site url is:

The American Academy of Pediatrics Web site url is:

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