A 3-year-old girl found a loaded gun in a Texas home and accidentally shot her sister, killing the 4-year-old on Sunday, police said. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the girls were in the bedroom of an apartment on Bammel North Houston Road in Houston, where they lived with their parents, around 8 p.m.
Five adults, who were all family members or family friends, were in other parts of the apartment and the girls unintentionally were left unsupervised, Gonzalez said.
He said one parent thought the other was watching the girls, and they were left alone in a bedroom. The 3-year-old girl found a loaded pistol and fired a single shot, the sheriff said.
“The 3-year-old gained access to a loaded, semi-automatic pistol. Family members heard a single gunshot. They ran into the room and found the small toddler, 4-years-old, unresponsive,” Gonzalez said.
The girl was pronounced dead at the scene after police responded to a 911 call by the family, Gonzalez told journalists outside the home.
“It just seems like another tragic story of, again, a child gaining access to a firearm and hurting someone else and this time there was a fatal shot,” Gonzalez said.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office will decide whether any of the adults will face charges based on the police investigation, which is still in the preliminary phase, Gonzalez said.
“Our hearts are broken. Our deputies are pretty shaken up,” Gonzalez said, noting that support personnel would be at the scene to assist the officers and family members.
“The community is impacted when a child loses their life in this way,” Gonzalez said, adding that the shooting was another avoidable gun death.
“We continue to send the message that this is very preventable,” Gonzalez said. “You’ve got to be sure you’re being a responsible gun owner, securing your weapons in a safe place. It’s got to be more than just telling young kids not to touch the weapons. You know, we’ve got to do a little more. We see far too many tragic situations like this unfold.”
According to data analyzed by advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, so far this year there have been at least 58 unintentional shootings by children in the U.S., resulting in 22 deaths and 37 injuries.
Last year, there were at least 353 unintentional shootings by children, resulting in 156 deaths and 212 injuries, the group said.