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6-year-old boy shoots infant sibling twice after getting hold of a gun in Detroit

A 6-year-old boy shot his baby brother twice in Detroit on Wednesday night in the latest incident of children getting access to unattended guns, police said. 

The 1-year-old, who is expected to survive, was shot through his cheek and left shoulder while sitting in a baby bouncer, Assistant Chief of Detroit Police Charles Fitzgerald said during a Wednesday news conference. A loaded, semi-automatic weapon had been left in the house. Their mother was down the street and their dad was in the backyard with some other children and an uncle, police said.

"We're here far too often talking about securing your weapons," Fitzgerald said. "There are gun locks, there are gun safes, there are the highest shelves you can find in your house. Put the gun up as high as you possibly can."

In April Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill instituting safe storage requirements for guns. Whitmer called it a long overdue step to keep guns away from children. The law was passed after more than 110 gun incidents in Michigan involving children in the state since 2015.

One January incident in the state involved a 5-year-old boy shooting himself in the hand in Detroit, Fitzgerald said at the time. He was able to get access to the gun with a 3-and-a-half-year-old, a 2-year-old and a newborn in the house. He suffered what Fitzgerald described as a "pretty heavy-duty injury." Fitzgerald expressed frustration at the child being able to access the gun.

"It's senseless gun owners who don't know how to put up their guns when they're not here," he said at the time.

Children have, in several instances, accessed unsecured guns in Michigan since Whitmer signed the storage bill. In May, a 2-year-old boy unintentionally shot and killed himself in a home, CBS Detroit reported. The boy found the gun, which belonged to his mother's boyfriend, on the couch. The boyfriend was charged with involuntary manslaughter.

"I don't understand this," the boyfriend said at the time CBS Detroit reported. "I'm trying to see how they're saying this is my fault. I didn't shoot and kill him." 

Experts and advocates say these shootings can be avoided by the simple act of safely storing guns. Nationwide, 26 states have secure storage laws or child-access prevention laws, according to Everytown. Secure storage laws require owners to lock up their firearms while child-access prevention laws only penalize gun owners if a child gains access to a firearm.

Everytown reported that households that locked both firearms and ammunition were associated with a 78% lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries and an 85% lower risk of unintentional firearm injuries among children and teens when compared with those that locked neither. 

Deaths of children from firearms happen across the nation. Earlier in June, a 3-year-old boy died after he accidentally shot himself in Tennessee, officials said. He found a firearm in a vehicle. In May, a 4-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed another child in Illinois, authorities said. Another 4-year-old girl was critically injured after she accidentally shot herself in the head in Georgia when her father left a loaded gun on the floor of their home, police said. A 4-year-old child also accidentally shot a younger sibling in Texas last month. Two 2-year-old children were shot in Chicago in recent incidents. 

"Every year, hundreds of children in the United States gain access to unsecured, loaded guns in closets and nightstand drawers, in backpacks and purses, or just left out in the open," Everytown researchers wrote in a report.  

In 2022, Everytown tracked 355 unintentional shootings by children, which resulted in 158 deaths and 212 injuries. Those numbers were down from the year before, when 167 people were killed and another 248 were injured in at least 396 accidental shootings where a child fired the gun, according to the nonprofit. 

Four-in-ten U.S. adults say they live in a household with a gun, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in June 2021. Around 4.6 million minors in the U.S. live in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm, according to Gifford Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The national leaders in gun safety policy, ranked by Everytown as California, New York, Hawaii, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland, all have secure storage laws or child-access prevention laws for guns.

Michigan's gun storage laws, set to take effect in 2024, require individuals to keep firearms unloaded and locked if they're being stored or left unattended on premises where it's "reasonably known that a minor is or is likely to be present." The bill also lowers the costs of firearm safety devices to make it easier for gun owners to safely store firearms.

The gun storage law requirements state that someone who violates the requirement can be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to 93 days or a fine of no more than $500, or both, depending on the severity of the situation. 

The punishment is even worse if a minor gains access to a gun that isn't securely stored and then shoots and injures someone. Depending on how serious the injury is, the person who failed to safely store the gun can be found guilty of a felony punishable by up to 15 years behind bars or a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

Police have not yet said if an arrest will be made in connection with the most recent Michigan shooting. Adult family members are cooperating with the police. CBS News has reached out to the police for an update.

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