Accidental Shooting in Capital City Triggers Debate over Child Access Prevention Laws

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Little Rock Police Department continues its investigation Monday after a five-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself at his home over the weekend. 

Police say no adults were there at the time. The child’s older siblings were watching him.

The tragedy has fired up a debate over a bill that lawmakers shot down last year.

“Doing nothing is just not an acceptable response,” said St. Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock.

The Democrat filed his version of a Child Access Prevention law during the 2017 legislative session after a boy shot and killed himself in the capital city. It would have created a misdemeanor offense of “negligently allowing access to a firearm by a child” if an owner failed to secure a loaded gun or left it in an easily-accessible place. 

Similar statutes are on the books in 27 states and D.C., but it is not a popular idea in the Arkansas legislature. The bill couldn’t make it to the House floor.

“There was just no support for it on the [House Judiciary] committee,” Tucker said. “The committee members were so against it that it really wasn’t even worth bringing it up. There was no chance it was going to pass.”

St. Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, sits on the committee. He argues if there are already child endangerment and negligence laws on the books, it doesn’t help to add one to the list, especially if it could infringe upon gun owners’ Second Amendment rights as a whole.

“We need to do something to try to prevent these deaths from happening,” Tucker argued.

There are a lot of school safety and gun discussions happening at the state capitol right now ahead of the 2019 legislative session, but there is no specific plan yet to address accidental shootings.

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, most accidental shootings among kids happen inside their homes. One in three guns are kept loaded and unlocked, and most kids know where they are.

The institute says about a third of accidental gun deaths could be prevented with two devices: a child-proof safety lock and a loaded chamber indicator.  

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