PENN HILLS, Pa. (KDKA) -- Millions of children live in homes with guns. Many of the firearms are fully loaded and unlocked.
In the span of just hours on Monday, these weapons claimed the lives of two local children.
First, a 4-year-old boy shot himself in the eye inside an East Liberty apartment. Then, Penn Hills police say an unsupervised 6-year-old child came across a loaded gun at home and accidentally shot and killed a 5-year-old sibling.
Neighbors were heartbroken to learn the child accidentally shot and killed their 5-year-old brother.
"These guns got to be locked up because kids don't know. They think they're toys," said one neighbor.
Both boys died at UPMC Children's Hospital on Monday.
"It's a shame," Penn Hills Police Chief Howard Burton said. "I could actually hear the difference in my sergeant's voice when he called me."
Chief Burton said in all his years of police work, these calls are the toughest.
"Officers have kids at home, they have kids that they're raising, they participate in their school functions and all of a sudden you get thrown into this situation," Burton said.
The Pittsburgh area is not immune to these accidents. In addition to the two deaths so far this week, communities dealt with this tragedy in the summer.
"In Monroeville, there was a 3-year-old who found a gun and ended up killing their 5-year-old sibling. And we saw a terrible case in Florida a couple of months ago where a child found a gun and killed the mother unintentionally when she was on a Zoom meeting with her colleagues," said Josh Fleitman with CeaseFirePA.
Fleitman said CeasefirePA calls the statistics staggering.
"From 2005 to 2014, there were 20,000 American children who were killed or severely injured in unintentional shootings. The majority of those were 12 or under," said Fleitman.
That's why CeaseFirePA is asking the state Legislature to join the 27 other states taking action with safe storage laws.
"That pretty much says when the gun is not being used, when the gun is at home, you have to store it safely, meaning locked in a box, separate unloaded from the ammunition," Fleitman said.
He's asking gun owners to make smart choices and look at the statistics.
"It's a pervasive issue. There's one study that showed there's 4.6 million American minors who live in a home with at least one loaded firearm that is unlocked and unsecured. So it's a massive threat out there. Unfortunately, it happens far too often," Fleitman said.
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