The devastating consequences of firearm mishandling and inadequate storage continue to haunt families across the United States. 

In 2016, 14-year-old JaJuan McDowell fell victim to an unintentional shooting, a stark reminder of the dangers posed by unsecured firearms. Eight years later, JaJuan’s mother, Julvonnia McDowell, still grapples with the pain of her loss, advocating tirelessly for safe firearm storage practices.

“When guns aren’t securely stored, the result is unimaginable pain and trauma,” McDowell shared during a televised interview with NBC News.

McDowell has dedicated her efforts as a volunteer for Moms Demand Action, a grassroots arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for gun control and against gun violence. “This is an issue that impacts us all. Regardless of whose gun it is, the consequences can be devastatingly personal.”


According to data provided by Everytown, at least 157 lives were lost, and 270 individuals were injured last year due to unintentional shootings by children. These incidents predominantly involve teenagers aged 14 to 17 or children aged five and under, often resulting in self-inflicted injuries or harm to another child.

Sarah Burd-Sharps, senior director of research at Everytown, highlighted the familial bonds shattered by such tragedies. 

“In many cases, the victim is a sibling, cousin, or friend, leaving multiple families grappling with sorrow and regret,” she stated.

Everytown urges federal and state authorities to enhance efforts in tracking and disseminating data on these incidents to formulate effective preventive strategies.

“Nearly every day, a child gains access to a loaded firearm with tragic outcomes. Yet, these incidents are entirely preventable,” emphasized Burd-Sharps.

Heartbreaking stories abound, including the death of a 2-year-old girl in Indiana who found a gun at home and the shooting of an 8-year-old boy in Alabama with a firearm taken from his mother’s car. In Florida, a 12-year-old boy died and a 15-year-old sustained injuries because of the negligent handling of a gun by a 14-year-old.

Last year, the nation witnessed the highest number of unintentional child shootings recorded by Everytown since tracking began in 2015, with 411 incidents resulting in injuries or fatalities. However, data collection has faced challenges due to inconsistent reporting and documentation.

Dr. David Hemenway, a prominent expert in injury prevention, noted the credibility of Everytown’s count of fatal shootings, aligning with broader trends observed in federal data.

Despite a decline in the overall rate of unintentional shooting deaths since the 1990s, firearms remain a leading cause of accidental child deaths. A 2015 survey estimated that 4.6 million American children lived in homes with loaded and unlocked firearms, a concerning statistic exacerbated by the recent surge in gun sales.

Everytown’s 2023 report, “Preventable Tragedies: Unintentional Shootings by Children,” offered a detailed analysis of incidents from 2015 to 2022, which detailed how critical secure gun storage remains.

Researchers stressed that “ensuring firearms are stored securely — unloaded, locked, and separate from ammunition — is paramount.”