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Defend Thyself Personal Defense

What Can We Learn: 3-Year-Old Boy Shoots Himself After Finding Gun

by Richard Nance   |  March 15th, 2012 75

Gun in car_croppedAccording to ABC News, a 3-year-old boy shot and killed himself with a gun that his mother’s boyfriend left under the seat in their vehicle as the family stopped for gas at the Tacoma, Wash., station off Interstate 5 at about 12:30 a.m.

The man exited the vehicle to pump gas and the child’s mother went inside the station, leaving the boy and the man’s daughter inside the vehicle.

The boy managed to climb out of his child restraint seat and retrieve the firearm, with which he accidentally shot himself.  The girl was uninjured.

According to Tacoma Police Officer Naveed Benjamin, investigators who questioned the boy’s mother and her boyfriend are calling the shooting a tragic accident.

Unfortunately, this is the third recent shooting of a child in Western Washington.

“You can’t predict what children are going to do. You need to unload and lock it up if you’re not carrying it. And keep it out of the hands of children. It’s really not that hard to practice firearm safety,” said Benjamin.

What can we learn from this tragic accidental shooting? The obvious “catch-22” with owning a gun is that the more securely it’s stored, the less accessible it is and vice-versa. In my opinion, responsible gun ownership is about striking a balance between security and accessibility.

To one extreme are gun owners whose unloaded guns are locked away so securely that they would be virtually useless to their owner during a home invasion, which of course is why the owner purchased the guns to begin with.

At the other end of the spectrum are gun owners who leave their loaded guns on kitchen counters with young children in the house. This type of gun owner has usually taught his or her children about the dangers of guns and is confident his children will not handle the gun. The problem here is that even if his or her children don’t find the allure of Daddy’s or Mommy’s gun irresistible, other children who visit the home might not be so disciplined.

Obviously, wearing your gun is the best way to ensure that it’s with you when you need it yet is inaccessible to others. But most people I know don’t wear a gun at all times while inside their home. I’ve found biometric safes, which require authorized fingerprint identification to unlock, to be a good way to keep your gun loaded and ready yet safe from children and irresponsible adults.

Some states have criminal statutes for unsafe storage of a firearm. However, even facing criminal charges would probably seem minor compared to the burden of knowing a child was injured or killed with your gun.

What are your thoughts?

  • Matt Draffen

    The boyfriend is an idiot! Like it said in the article " if your not carrying it, it needs to be locked up". I feel for the mother. You can not leave any chance for a child to be around a loaded gun unless they have been throught some really good gum safety lessons. Even at that age they shouldn't have access.

  • Kyle Meier

    The best idea is to carry it. Its accesable and safe.

    • Kyle Meier

      Especially at a gas station.

  • Bill

    My first thought is that this is horrible, I can't imagine losing one of my 3 children to ANYthing much less them making the lethal infliction themselves. My second thought is that this child had to have known this weapon was there. The article states that the child removed himself from the safety seat, I do not believe the kid got up and just HAPPENED to find the firearm. That being said, I think this further supports the teaching of firearm safety at a young age.Someone once told me that a child will break there neck trying to get on top of a shelf to get to a cookie jar, but if it's left on the counter not as likely. Now I'm not proposing leaving firearms laying around with a round in the chamber but I am proposing the teaching of safety so that the "curious" factor is GREATLY decreased.

  • Derrick

    No rounds in the chamber! It's added safety, most kids don't have enough strength to rack that slide (assuming it's a semi-auto). Train with it. If you don't have time to rack that slide, the situation wouldn't call for its use in the first place, meaning train with empty hand defense as well to give yourself time to deploy, make ready and shoot that weapon.

    If it works for the Israelis, it's good enough for me.

    I feel for the family, this is horrible either way. +1 on bill's comment.

    • Miro

      I absolutely agree – if you have children around you, carry with NO round in the chamber. You might be a little slower when it comes to a close quarter self-defense situation, BUT hey "What's more important to you – your own life, or life of your children ? "

      • bobbyrlf3

        That's really a silly statement. Choosing between your own life or the lives of your children? Talk about a non sequitur.

    • Jeff Herrick

      I agree with no round in the chamber, but strongly disagree in your statement that "If you don't have time to rack that slide, the situation wouldn't call for it's use in the first place". That is completely backwards. Most all incidents for lawful use are done with next to no noitce. Someone grabbing you from behind, or that for sure have the element of surprise. Which, is truly the best weapon. Unfortunately lawful citizens do not have the element of surprise working for them. I still don't carry one in the chamber because I have small children, but I sure wish I could for the added security of knowing all I need to do is shoot. I am very well trained, but it does not matter if I don't have the element of surprise.

  • Dave Wright

    Its tragic without a doubt. I have no idea if Washington is a carry state or not. I do know that in my state its illegal to leave children unattended in a vehicle. I feel so bad for the family involved.

  • James Mcwilliams

    WTFO?! Round in the chamber, safety off and left under the car seat? No reason it shouldn't have been locked in the glovebox while he wasn't in the car or wearing it while he went in the store. CCW permits in WA aren't hard to get so either the guy was lazy, or couldn't get one. Either way this is crap that makes gun owners look bad when the Fools at the Brady Foundation are looking for any reason to go and cry for more gun control. This guy should have his guns torched right in front of him as he's led off to jail.

    • Rick

      A simular accident about the same time: An officer left his loaded weapon in the car and young boy killed
      younger sister. I left town for a while and haven't learned more.

  • Warren

    What a horrible completely avoidable thing to happen. A child has lost its life because a gun owner did not ensure the gun was always in his possession or unusable when left behind.

    This is a gun safety 101 mistake and I am sorry, but this is not an accident. You NEVER Leave your loaded gun accessible to others but yourself. I say off to jail sir and maybe after a few examples of the consequences of improper gun handling we can get the morons using guns to stop making all the responsible gun handlers look bad. . . . and what the heck, we will even save lives in the process.

    • Phil

      kudos … other retort is applicable……

  • Scott

    Locking it in the glove box is an option, but not all glove boxes have locks. Assuming this was a semi-auto… 1) don't keep a round in the chamber, and 2) take the magazine out and put it in your pocket when you leave the car, even if you think your wife is going to stay in the car.

    It is good to have these discussions. Gun ownership is on the rise and therefore there are many people, like myself, who now own a gun but did not "grow up" around them.

    • Alan_T

      That might not work for everyone , but that is one good solution .

  • Antonio

    The responsibility of gun ownership and handling is infinite. There's a certain stress behind it that is called for, one that incites us to safely manage our firearms. From training and education to lock boxes, safeties, and chambered rounds, it's a 24×7 tactical responsibility. Even the thought of leaving a gun unattended should worry you — that means you're conscious of the danger. This guy let his guard down, and it cost a life. How tragic.

  • ahyup

    What kind of idiot leaves a 3 year old alone in a car with or without a gun? There was some serious negligence going on here.

  • jal98020

    Who in their right mind would leave an infant and 3 yr old in a vehicle alone? For ANY reason? I read of children run over because they put a car in gear, so many unfortunate things because mom just left them "for a minute". NEVER ever leave a child in a vehicle alone, even just to run into the store. Boyfriend was standing beside the car pumping gas – could he not SEE the child? Enough of my soap box – i see and hear enough blatant disregard to the safety of children. They should not have children

  • RDJ

    The parents should be charged.
    The gun should have been where the owner is able to reach it at all times.
    NOT where the child is able to reach it at any time.

    • Derek Keating

      The parents properly wont be charged because the piece of dirt NRA has lobbied to make sure that doesn’t happen. Lesson here never support the NRA.

  • Karl

    I choose the extra couple of seconds for access ALWAYS since I have a young child. If it is not securely on me in a holster, it is unloaded and locked up, even in a car. ALWAYS. Because this can happen to ANY of us with a moment's laxity.

  • Pete

    I'm all for teaching young kids about firearm safety and firmly believe they are never too young to learn
    I also think they should not be where little hands can get to them unsupervised at all ever

  • Yurmom

    You don't have children do you

    • RDJ

      I have children and I never leave an unattended gun around them.
      When mife informed me that we were expecting a son I went out and bought a safe.
      Not a can with a lock, but a full size safe.
      I carry to protect my wife and children not to put them in Harm's way.

  • JiminGA

    Sorry Steve, but my grandchildren (ages 4 & 6) have been securing and unsecuring themselves in very good car seats for a long time. It wasn't murder at all, but carelessness on the part of the boyfriend. Sure, he is guilty of criminal negligence, but not murder.

    Maybe, just maybe, this tragic death will inspire careless gun owners to tighten up their gun security and get some training.

    • Poppagriz'

      No, not murder, was not intentional, but certainly is book definition of "negligent homicide"…no such thing as an accident; only raw stupidity and negligence. Good post, JiminGA. When you have small children in the area, all your normal self defense rules go out the window, children first. Which is more likey to happen, a burglar in the home, OR child getting to your firearm? Your choice, your decision, and you may have to live with it rest of your life. Think about it, folks.

  • Bill K

    If I remember correctly, the father was a off duty police officer.

    • Poppagriz'

      The other incident of the three for Washington state this past week or so…sadly, seems to run in threes.

  • Garry

    Second guess is to get it right most of the times. Let us learn from their tragedy and not put us or someone else in harms way. May peace come to the family.

  • SteveNashville

    why would you censor my thoughts?

  • SteveNashville

    I would like you to post what I wrote.

  • geo1

    I'm with Steve Nashville here….I'm gonna try this again…and if this does not get posted…I'll know what kind of censorship this site practices….

    Our Father in Heaven…Please help and comfort these people with their loss…
    But…you NEVER, EVER leave a loaded, and for that matter, any firearm, not even for a second, unattended within the reach of a child.

    Kindest Regards…

    In God We Trust…

  • Grady

    The problem was the stupid laws that required he leave the gun in the auto instead of having it concealed on his person where it should have been. But no one can see beyond the liberal hype of blaming the gun or the owner, they never look as the stupid laws that cause these problems. Just like all the gun free zones in schools, post offices, government buildings, etc. which give the jerks who plan to do harm to someone a free pass to do as they please because they know no one will stop them and everyone will blame the gun and call for more stupid laws that caused the problem in the first place.

    • jefffreyjg1

      Washington State has no such law regarding service stations – can't blame the law on this one.

  • Dr. C. E. DeLeon

    A tragic mistake!… everything suggested now will be hindsight! My only suggestion to the young lady left with one child… get rid of this bum before he shoots himself, you, or, your other kid, "accidentally"!
    To the commenter, Geo1… where was the "Heavenly Father" when the kid grabbed the gun?? Sir, leave fantasy and stay on Earth!!

    • geo1

      To the "good" Dr. DeLeon:

      The "Heavenly Father" has all well within His hands.
      Fantasy, as you put it, is all I have been reading per most of the comments. Speculative at best
      We don't know the whole story, but someone does..
      More over, as the author put it, “You can’t predict what children are going to do." Nor can you predict what the "Heavenly Father" has done or is doing.
      My good doctor, "if" that's what you really are, as I can't really tell by your negativity towards the boyfriend,
      you might just want to do a reality check to make sure you are firmly grounded. All are fast to judge…but slow to forgive. Leave both to the "Heavenly Father" as that is His job…not ours.
      The headline is "What Can We Learn:" not who can we judge. Refer to my former post.

      Kindest Regards…

      In God We Trust…

      • Alan_T

        Well said Geo

  • Bimmerstuff

    The incident involving the off duty policeman took place in the Marysville, Washington area several days ago. One child retrieved a loaded pistol from the glove box and discharged it, killing a sibling.

    In this incident this week, the father is a Washington CPL holder, which makes it all the more senseless on so many levels. The only time I leave my gun in the car is when going to an area or location where weapons are legally prohibited. In my opinion, a gas station is a perfect place to be carjacked, and therefore one of the most important placed to be armed.

  • Tim

    This is a tragedy and of course, my thoughts are with the family. However, I find fault with the logic of this article's author.

    "… locked away so securely that they would be virtually useless to their owner during a home invasion, which of course is why the owner purchased the guns to begin with."

    I for one -and many others- don't own or purchase firearms for home defense. imagine for the moment the feasibility of protecting one's home with say a 28" barreled bolt gun with a 10X scope, or a muzzleloader . . . they are rather expensive clubs unless the burglar/home-invader has enough sense of fair play to schedule his appointment with the home's resident.

    Most of us are not properly trained or equipped to defend a home from an intruder. While any gun is better than no gun and people will use what they have to protect themselves, family and property, most guns are sold for hunting and target practice, not home defense.

    I also find fault in the specific case. If the gun in the incident was 'obviously' purchased for home defense. . . why was it riding around under the driver's seat? (I suppose if the family was living out of the car. . . but it seems far-fetched) From the comments, We are told that the gun's owner was a Concealed Permit licensee, which would indicate that the gun was likely intedned for use outside the home. If that information was available to the commentors, I doubt the author did any amount of research into the incident. I expect more from a respected and well-known firearm industry resource like G&A. And the editorial staff should too.

    • Alan_T

      You " find fault with the logic of this article's author " ? ….. I find fault with YOUR logic .
      Who is this " US " that you're referring to ? YOU are " ' obviously ' " mis-informed and if YOU ARE NOT properly trained or equipped , WHO'S fault is that ? …. YOURS . As for shotguns and rifles , they are used in home defense all the time and just as many firearms are sold for home and self defense as any others . YOUR knowledge seems limited at best if indeed you are really a firearm owner and not another " Brady Bunch " saboteur . I see nothing wrong with either the author's or G&A 's research , but YOURS , if you did any at all , is pretty shoddy .

      • jeffreyjg1


    • Richard Nance


      Sorry you didn't Iike my blog. As usual, there was minimal information available when I wrote it. Taking the time to extensively research each blog topic is not practical nor would it be timely. My goal is not to fully investigate each story but rather to submit the "readers digest" version, along with my opinion as to what I consider important learning points from the incident. Obviously, there are space considerations to consider.

      As far as your opinion about home defense not being a major reason why people purchase firearms, I completely disagree.

      The fact that the man whose gun was used in this tragedy was a CCW holder and the incident happened outside the home doesn't make my points about keeping your home defense gun secure and accessible any less relevant, in my opinion.

      When legally carrying a gun outside the home, I recommend keeping it on your person for the reasons indicated in the blog.

      Thanks for taking the time to write. Hopefully you'll enjoy the next blog a little more.

      • Alan_T

        You're a gentleman Mr. Nance . In this increasingly uncivil society , that's nice to see .

  • Captjon

    These are the type of people who further the cause of the anti gun nuts. I cannot imagine being this irresponsible with a firearm. I have a 3 1/2 year old and we have already started teaching him about firearm safety. He knows that he is allowed to ask to see or handle my handgun any time he wants, but he needs to ask and then watches as I unload it and make it safe. He is only allowed to touch it once it is unloaded and the slide is locked back. He knows how to identify when the gun is in a safe condition and will not touch it until it is in that state.
    With that said, we still do not leave loaded or unloaded weapons laying about. He is a good kid but not perfect and we won't take that risk.
    There are only 2 places that my carry weapon goes, in the holster on my belt, which is where it goes right after I get out of bed, or in the quick access gun safe under my bed.
    The gun is always in condition 1 so in order to be a safe and responsible gun owner these are the only places I can, in good conscience, keep it. I cannot imagine living knowing that due to my irresponsible actions that
    my son, wife or another innocent person was killed. This is the reason that I carry every day.

    • Alan_T


  • Steve

    It's truly a sad case and the man is going to live with this for the rest of his life. The truth of the matter is that accidents will happen. People have cars, have accidents, people with knives have accidents, people with stairs have accidents, people with boats have accidents, ad infinitum. The point being that you will never be able to prevent them, but by being more responsible and careful you will be able to minimize them to some degree. Learn from it and go on.

  • Ross

    I know not everybody has the money, but I own and carry different guns for different situations.
    When I'm traveling in a vehicle I choose my tiny .380 and keep it in my pocket holster where only I have access to it.
    It's a teense uncomfortable, but not too much so that it's worth the tradeoff of having no gun with me.

    In this boyfriends case hindsight is 20/20. But I try to think foresight whenever possible.

  • Alan_T

    I think the so – called adults were criminally negligent ( or as some have suggested , worse ) . Personally my kids are grown , but I NEVER left a loaded OR unloaded firearm out where they could access it without my permission . I now have a biometric lock box and they are cheap enough now that there is no reason anyone with kids shouldn't have one too . If you can afford the gun , you can afford the box .

  • M. James

    I wonder if the kid was not properly secured in the seat, often the belts are not snug enough or
    the child is smart enough to unlock him or herself.

    Story reads the time they stopped for fuel 12:30 AM, most kids would be sound asleep,
    wonder if store has video of the pump area?

    Something wrong here besides the adult not securing the firearm in holster or locked up.
    Not having a round in the chamber could be a problem is you have to draw on bad guy.

  • Dad

    I live in Texas and to apply for a CHL I had to pass a 10 hour course and about 2 hours were handgun safety,

    It is obvious you do not leave a loaded gun near a child. Kids are curious and all wanna be 007 or Clint Eastwood. I fell very sorry for this, I could not imagine how this mom is suffering.

    • Derek Keating

      Just owning a gun puts you children at more risk of being shot than not having it.

  • Shalimar

    "To one extreme are gun owners whose unloaded guns are locked away so securely that they would be virtually useless to their owner during a home invasion, which of course is why the owner purchased the guns to begin with."

    Welcome to Canada's moronic laws as stand now…. and then some…. @_@

    Common sense does not prevail in either case sadly. :(

    • R F Green

      Common sense comes from common background, experience, etc.. 'Moronic' laws and regulations stem from reactionary thinking based on emotion. Neither side in these issues is immune from subjective, agenda driven solutions to the problems of gun ownership in America today.

  • mike

    Alot of british colonies are light years behind common sense and are still running on draconian laws. Its working to full advantage of criminals rather than law abiding citizens.

    • Derek Keating

      Wrong most developed countries are moving away from citizens having access to guns it’s just the US that’s way behind and the slaughter and carnage is clear for all to see.

  • Larry

    Last night on our news another one year old was pulled from a pool..accidental drowning..the 8th so far this year. There have been several children run over by autos this year. And yes this article follows the same defenseless parenting. It is not just guns folks…it is about knowing where your children are at all times and being an alert adult as to what is going around your children. When any of our 8 grand kids come over we put up all guns (my wife and I both carry) knives, or anything else that is obviously not child safe. Looking at what happens to kids today by less than responsible parents it is amazing i made it this far in life. We had farm ponds, lakes, rivers, farm machinery, large animals, and the list could go on. But it seems that children were trained more about inherent dangers and simply were watched. We did not have phones to distract nor the need to go go go. This is a tragic happening and senseless but no different than a child that was momentarily forgotten and drowned or one run over while an adult was hastily leaving and backing out of a parking space. WAKE UP AND PAY ATTENTION.

    • Alan_T

      You're right Larry and if anyone here thinks that junior dosen't know about , or can't find dad's .38 in the sock drawer , they're deluding themselves …… kids can or will find anything . It's part of growning up . Unfortunatly , today's reality is that in most 2 parent households , both parents work ( I'm not commenting on wether it's right or wrong , I'm just stating a fact ) Bottom line …… it's your kids , it's your firearm …. it's your responsibility .

  • Steve

    Really,it takes 2 seconds to insert the Mag and Arm. Most encounters in a car with a Male inside take time to unfold. Unless your in a Ghetto leave it unloaded? get real people I have been around guns and taken ample courses in Handgun Training for 50 years. We are our worst enemies when execising our Rights. As for the three year old getting out of the seat ….BU Crap, He was not in it secure enough. I do not believe the gun was under the seat either. With the Boyfriend pumping gas and the mother in the store? Not enough time for the little guy to get curious. The boyfriend pumping gas should have seen the youngster get out of his seat? This is of course mom and boyfriend were not stoned. The cops may have overlooked this part because of the circumstances. God everyone envolved and get that sister some counseling as well as the poor Police!

  • Steve

    Quote: "You can't predict what children are going to do"

    That's incorrect. One thing you can predict is that if a three year old finds a gun, they will pick it up and inspect it at the very least. If they have seen guns in use such on TV or in person they will emulate those actions. The concealed weapon permitted gun owner left a gun that was not only loaded but also chambered within reach of a three year old child. I wonder how he got a CWP.
    He doesnt have the responsibilty to have a concealed weapons permit – or children.

  • shooter348

    Perhaps if we lived in a nation that respected it's Constitution and understood the illegality of concealed carry laws this man would have been more comfortable carrying the pistol with him instead of hiding it away in the car. Whatever his reasoning it wasn't wise to leave it accessible to children, especially if the boyfriend wasn't real familiar with the children. I don't however see the gain in prosecuting someone who had no criminal intent and is already suffering the consequences of his actions.

  • Al Terego

    he's a frikkin idiot he shoudln't be allowed to have guns or children.

    • Derek Keating

      Yeah most people in the world shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near guns except for law enforcement. Guns kill all day long.

  • Rocky Hernandez

    Wow.. I can believe this guy ..why in the hell would u even have a gun in a car with a baby if u r not around, he should have had the gun on him, this is why they want all of us not to have guns because of people like this ..May God Forgive ..

  • Dr. C. E. DeLeon

    This forum is NOT for pontificating nor pushing your fantasies on everyone! Everyone is entitled to his/hers opinion, however, NOT to their own, made-up, "facts"! If Geo1 would rather get on his knees and ask for some Heavenly Father to come and save his family from a break-in, instead of reaching for a twelve-gauge… I guess we will be posting comments on that incident! If parrots could read they would be INTOLERABLE to own!!

  • djd

    wow. that is just sickening. there are two questions i have. The first is why would the boyfriend have a gun in the car loaded with children… the second is, is he just plain out stupid or is he just so irresponsible that he doesn't care that guns are in fact dangerous? i mean its just as much the mother's fault as it is the irresponsible boyfriend's fault cause she should have know if her boyfriend had a gun in the car. its just sickening to hear that kids are accidentally shooting themselves cause of retarded parents or in this case boyfriends have loaded guns where kids can get a hold of them.

  • Mack Missiletoe

    If the kid was from Iraq he'd already know how to take the gun apart and put it back together.

    Be careful out there! I feel bad for these people. It's one of those, "If I just would have…" moments. How frustrating and sad… History is important.

    • Derek Keating

      Show me where kids are trained to use guns at the age of 3 in Iraq or are you just speculating?

  • Phil

    Who the hell leaves a 3 year old in the car alone? Even if there was not a gun and only for a sec, anything can happen. That kid could have just easily got out of his constraints and ran into the road, or someone can jump to the car to steal it….. Just stupid to leave a child alone in the car for any reason.

    • Amy

      They weren’t completely alone. The article stated that the father was right outside pumping gas into the car.

  • DoctorWho

    Unattended firearms anywhere are a poor idea, either at home or in a vehicle.
    Either carry them, or lock them up.

  • Angelika

    I have kids. I keep a loaded gun with one in the chamber. My kids have been taught how to handle my gun and are proficient. I NEVER leave my gun where the kids could grab it!!!
    At home it is with me whichever room I go to! Getting out of the car – its on my hip PERIOD!

  • fuzzyjon79

    Very sad story. I couldn't imagine losing a child to something that could have easily been avoided by being responsible and mindful of the deadly weapons that I own. As gun owners, we are held to a higher standard.

  • Laura McMillan

    The shooter's parents were not held responsible in this case (I have included the link below). The 13 year old boy (who passed his hunter safety course) got home from a duck hunting trip with his father. The victim went over to the neighbor's house and the 13 year old neighbor boy picked up a loaded shotgun, pointed it at the victim's head and pulled the trigger. This is NOT an anti-gun issue in any way, just a story about a very beloved family in our community and how their world will never be the same. Here is the link, my hope is everyone will simply take a moment to read this. Thank you so very much for your time.

  • John

    Once found a 1911 under the passenger of my Grandpa’s truck; was ten then, and knew nothing about firearms either. But of all things the school system taught me (among other things) that if you find a gun don’t touch it leave it where it is. So as soon as I saw what it was I put it right back under the seat.

  • Derek Keating

    Lesson learned guns put your family at more risk than not having a gun statistically speaking.

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