BURKESVILLE, Ky. – A 5-year-old U.S. boy accidentally shot his 2-year-old sister to death with a rifle he had received as a gift last year, authorities said.
The children’s mother was home at the time Tuesday afternoon but had stepped out to the front porch for a few minutes and “she heard the gun go off,” Cumberland County Coroner Gary White said. He said the rifle was kept in a corner, and the family didn’t realize a bullet was left inside it.
White told the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper the boy received the .22-calibre rifle, especially made for children, as a gift.
White identified the gun as a Crickett, referring to a company that specifically makes guns, clothes and books for children. “It’s a little rifle for a kid. … The little boy’s used to shooting the little gun.”
The shooting, while accidental, highlights a cultural divide in the U.S. debate over gun control, which again became a top issue after 20 young children and six adults were shot dead at a Connecticut school in December. While many urban and suburban areas work to keep guns out of the hands of children, it’s not uncommon for youths in rural areas to own guns for target practice and hunting.
“Down in Kentucky where we’re from, you know, guns are passed down from generation to generation. You start at a young age with guns for hunting and everything,” White said.
“Accidents happen with guns. They thought the gun was actually unloaded, and it wasn’t,” the coroner said.
White said the girl died of a single gunshot wound to the chest area.
It is not clear whether any charges will be filed, said Kentucky State Police spokesman Trooper Billy Gregory.
The AP is not identifying the children because of their ages.
Keystone Sporting Arms produced 60,000 Crickett and Chipmunk rifles in 2008, according to its website. It also makes guns for adults. The smaller guns come in all sorts of colours, including blue and pink.
The company’s slogan is “my first rifle,” and its website has a “Kids Corner” section with photos of children at shooting ranges and on bird and deer hunts.
“The goal of KSA is to instil gun safety in the minds of youth shooters and encourage them to gain the knowledge and respect that hunting and shooting activities require and deserve,” the website said.
No one at the company answered the phone Wednesday.
A package of gun control measures proposed by President Barack Obama after the December school shooting has largely failed so far in Congress.