This article originally appeared on 03.07.16
A childhood game can go very wrong in the blink of an eye.
“You’ll never get me!”
“Freeze! Put your hands up.”
If you’ve ever played cops and robbers, you know how the game goes.
John Arthur Greene was 8 and he was playing that game with his older brother Kevin. Only the two brothers played with real guns. Living on a farm, they were both old hands at handling firearms by their ages.
The blast from the gun must have startled them both.
“We were always extremely safe. They were never loaded,” John said.
Except this time it was. And John’s brother died in his arms while he watched.
It happens more often than you would ever want to imagine.
In federal data from 2007 to 2011, which is likely under-reported, an average of 62 children were accidentally killed by firearms per year.
Here’s a chilling example from Everytown for Gun Safety:
“In Asheboro, North Carolina, a 26-year-old mother was cleaning her home when she heard a gunshot. Rushing into the living room, she discovered that her three-year-old son had accidentally shot her boyfriend’s three-year-old daughter with a .22-caliber rifle the parents had left in the room, loaded and unlocked.”
And the numbers may actually be getting worse.
With an increase in unfettered access to guns and philosophical opposition to gun regulations, the numbers seem to be on the rise. Here’s how many accidental shootings happened at the hands of children in 2015 alone, by age:
From January 19-26 of 2016 — just one week — at least seven kids were accidentally shot by another kid.
If the pace holds up for the rest of the year, America would be looking at over 300 accidental shootings of children, in many cases by children, for the year. That’s far too many cases of children either carrying the guilt and pain of having shot a loved one or hurting or killing themselves by accident.
John Arthur Greene has been able to manage his feelings of guilt and sorrow through music and by sharing his story for others to hear.
He told his story during an audition for the final season of “American Idol.” He says music has helped him keep his brother’s memory alive:
“Right now I lift him up every day and he holds me up. Music is how I coped with everything.”
It’s a powerful reminder. No matter how we each feel about gun safety laws, guns should always be locked away unloaded and kept separately from ammunition.
Our babies are too precious to leave it to chance.
Watch John Arthur Greene’s audition for “American Idol” here: