Two Georgia 2-year-olds lived 85 miles apart and never met. But the two died the same way within weeks of each other.
Both were killed in what police called accidental shootings. Both boys, one in Acworth and the other in Jackson, were shot in their homes when guns were left within their reach. And both deaths likely could have been prevented.
“The fact that a child got a gun isn’t an accident,” Dr. Viviana Goldenberg told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s negligence.”
But in three recent deadly shootings involving children, no criminal charges have been filed. Goldenberg, a member of the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action, said that’s because there are few restrictions in Georgia for those who want to have weapons since state laws changed in 2014.
“It’s literally terrifying, and this is happening all over the country,” Goldenberg said. “There is no gun owner responsibility. They’re not thinking of what measures to do to prevent access of the children to the gun.”
Wednesday night’s shooting in Butts County was the latest in recent weeks involving children in metro Atlanta. Jayden Jamar Clay, 2, died in his Jackson home when he was shot in the head. It wasn’t known whether Jayden or his twin brother pulled the trigger in the living room of the home.
“We still haven’t determined that yet,” Jackson police Chief James Morgan said Thursday.
Both boys were in the living room of the home and their mother was in the kitchen, according to police. Investigators planned to interview the mother’s boyfriend Thursday afternoon, Morgan said.
Jayden’s death came less than three weeks after a Cobb County toddler died after shooting himself inside his family’s home, according to police. On Oct. 27, a 2-year-old boy found a semi-automatic handgun on a bed and shot and killed himself, Acworth police said. The boy’s father, Grant Dennington, and 4-year-old brother were also in the home at the time of the shooting, though neither was injured.
And, 10 days before the Acworth boy died, an 8-year-old Paulding County girl was killed in what detectives also called an accidental shooting.
Sharia Lynch was shot in the head by the same bullet that struck her mother in the leg, the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office said. Marsha Lynch, 45, told investigators a handgun had fallen and discharged when it hit the floor at the family’s home on Fairview Drive. No charges have been filed in Sharia’s death, Sgt. Ashley Henson said Thursday.
Georgia child gun deaths have mounted in recent years. An AJC analysis in 2013 showed that most died under circumstances that could have been prevented.
Morgan, whose officers are investigating the latest shooting involving a child, said there isn’t much law enforcement can do to prevent these type of cases, other than remind citizens to be diligent.
“With the new gun law, we can’t even challenge them or ask for their permit,” Morgan said.
Goldenberg said her group isn’t advocating that people shouldn’t own guns. Many group members carry weapons or have them in their homes for safety, she said. Instead, she said the right to carry a gun comes with responsibility.
“You are responsible for the weapon,” Goldenberg said. “If someone has access to your weapon, you are not storing it properly.”
On Thursday, the Acworth police department announced it was offering free gun locks to the community in an effort to prevent further tragedies involving children.
“If they see it, they will play with it,” the department posted on its Facebook page. “Let’s take the initiative and keep our children safe!”
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