With accidental child shootings on rise, lawmaker looks to strengthen penalties for gun owners

Detroit police on Hubbell Street on the city's west side Sunday night - a 4-year-old boy accidentally shot himself with a gun he found in the home. He is hospitalized in stable condition.

"Fortunately it appears that child is going to recover from the injury," said Chief James Craig. "We have every intention to move forward submitting a warrant over to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office."

Detroit Police Chief Craig says a visitor to the home who is a CPL holder, had set his gun down and placed his hat over it. Then he went in the other room - and that's when the little boy found it.

It's one of several accidental shootings involving children with guns in the last week.

On Friday afternoon in Owosso, a rural town near Lansing, a 3-year-old boy accidentally shot himself and died.
Last Wednesday on Sturtevant in Detroit - an 18-month old was playing with a gun he found when it fired, hitting his 5-year-old cousin in the neck - he didn't survive.

"Tragic, 18-months, how does that happen? It happens because a person is just flatly irresponsible and they need to be held accountable," Craig said.

Craig says there could be charges against the father - the gun owner - in that case, but the investigation continues.

Police are pleading with gun owners to secure their guns - but lawmakers say something more needs to be done.

"When you have that gun you know that there's a consequence if you let that gun get into the hands of a child," said State Rep. John Cherry. 

Cherry and others are introducing legislation to specifically address prosecuting gun owners not using trigger locks or safes whose weapons lead to tragedies involving children handling those guns.
Right now prosecutors often bring charges of involuntary manslaughter or child abuse - but there's no specific law on the books dealing with this here in Michigan.

"The idea behind this legislation is that if this situation happens that prosecutors do have the tools - no matter the surrounding circumstances - to be able to take action," Cherry said.

The penalties would vary based on the severity of the shooting - a death could result in the gun owner facing a 15-year felony.

Cherry is a hunter, gun owner, and the father of a 4-year-old daughter who says it's really about prevention.

"It's just really about making sure that I and others who are gun owners make responsible decisions to protect our children and other people's children," he said.