A 3-year-old boy from Arizona was visiting the family's 78-year-old neighbor, along with his mother and baby brother, when he found a loaded handgun in the home. He took it to another room, where he shot and killed his 18-month-old sibling. The children were reportedly in the living room unaccompanied when they discovered the semi-automatic pistol, which police confirm wasn't just sitting there on a table for the taking, but was out of sight. They took the gun into a bedroom and, as all children would do, began playing with it. And then the nightmare of all nightmares occurred: it accidentally went off and the toddler was shot in the head.
Mom and her neighbor had no idea the boys had found the weapon, according to police. As of right now, they haven't made any arrests, but they aren't ruling out the possibility that an adult's recklessness may somehow be responsible for the boys being able to obtain the gun. Their investigation is expected to take about a week.
The boys' mom says she walked into the bedroom just as the shooting was happening and that there was nothing she could do to stop it. I can't think of anything more absolutely horrifying than watching your baby die -- except witnessing his death and knowing your other baby accidentally caused it and would now be forced to forever live with guilt in his heart.
Of course, considering the older brother's age, it's unlikely he is going to be able to make sense of what he did. But it's heartbreaking to think that one day it will become something he'll have to come to deal with and accept -- a scar that will always be with him, even though he was just a baby himself and doesn't deserve to shoulder any of the blame.
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Stories like these are all too common. While it's definitely questionable for a gun owner to keep a loaded gun in his home instead of storing the gun and bullets separately, I don't feel right about shifting the blame so easily to the neighbor. We don't know anything about this elderly person -- or whether he or she was even expecting to host young children that day.
A better takeaway from this story might be to let it serve as a reminder: we really can't leave our young children alone for even a few minutes. I'm guilty of doing it every day -- if only to take a five-minute shower. But as this story reminds us, a tragedy can unfold in seconds. It's simply not worth the risk. I feel terrible for this poor mom and her son and hope they can somehow find peace during this difficult time.
Do you ever leave your young children alone? Does this story make you think twice about doing that?
Image via Jon Jordan/Flickr