Shootings Showcase Need for Gun Safety

ByABC News
January 25, 2006, 12:27 PM

Jan. 25, 2006 — -- A 16-year-old Ohio boy has been charged in the shooting death of his girlfriend, which has many people talking again about the issue of gun safety among children.

The teen was charged as a juvenile Tuesday with a delinquency count of reckless homicide in the death of Lindsey Sligar, 17, of Mount Gilead, who was shot once in the chest with a handgun. Prosecutors did not release the boy's name.

Sligar was a senior at Northmor High School in Galion, about 50 miles north of Columbus. The school's yearbook staff is planning a memorial page for the teen, who hoped to become a model, according to her mother.

Galion police Chief Brian Saterfield said the shooting appears to be an accident likely caused by horseplay. In a similar incident, an 8-year-old boy and his father face charges in Tuesday's shooting at the For Kids We Care day-care center in Germantown, Md. The 7-year-old girl, who was shot in the arm, will be released from the hospital today.

Police in Ohio were trying to determine who owned and loaded the .380-caliber handgun used to shoot Sligar. John Linwood Hall Sr., 56, the father of the Maryland boy, owned the .38-caliber Taurus revolver used in that incident.

Firearm accidents, especially among children, continue to worry parents and law-enforcement agencies, even though the numbers have dropped in recent years. Thirty-four percent of American children live in a home with at least one gun.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1.69 million children live in homes where firearms have not been put in safe places. In 2003, more than 2,000 children were killed by firearms, 182 from accidental shootings. Another grim statistic: More than 900 children committed suicide with a gun.

Police and gun-safety experts urge several steps to prevent such incidents:

Not everyone believes that this is all good advice. John R. Lott Jr. at the American Enterprise Institute says gun locks are costly and can be dangerous. Lott says if a violent criminal enters a house, there may be no time for the gun owner to get the lock off. Still, many police departments across the nation have distributed free trigger locks under grants from the federal government.

Many gun rights activists have opposed mandatory locks. They argue that while locks might be a solution in some households, they would not work in others. But as part of a trade-off for other legislation it wanted, the National Rifle Association endorsed mandatory "child" locks for new gun purchases. President Bush signed the bill into law in October 2005. Trigger locks are not required for guns purchased previously.

There is no attempt at the national level to require adults to store their guns in a safe place away from children. But many advocates of both gun rights and gun control support proposals that would give tax breaks to gun owners who buy a safety-deposit box for their guns. Besides making it difficult for children to get the guns, supporters say it would also make it difficult for criminals to steal guns from homes.

Supporters of gun rights and gun control also agree on this: Parents should tell their children never to touch a gun and to always assume it is loaded.

ABC News' John Cochran and The Associated Press contributed to this report.