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2 accidental child shootings in 1 day have authorities looking for solutions

By Russell Kinsaul

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    ST. LOUIS (KMOV) — On Monday, a 7-year-old boy died of an accidental shooting in Berkeley. Hours later, a 5-year-old girl also died of an accidental shooting in Belleville.

The boy’s grandfather, 45-year-old Walter Macon, was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and armed criminal action. Court documents say he left the child alone in a vehicle for five minutes and the boy found a loaded handgun and accidentally shot himself.

The girl from Belleville has been identified as Dariyah A. Lathan. Police have not released many details about the incident.

Last year, St. Louis Children’s Hospital treated 163 children with firearms injuries, a record number. Through June 24, 2023, the hospital reports treating 64 children with gunshot wounds.

While on a visit to St. Louis Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was asked about the problem of children finding unsecured firearms in the home and shooting themselves. He said gun owners should be held responsible.

“I don’t think there’s any question if you’re going to have firearms, you have to be responsible for those firearms,” said Parson.

It was St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell’s office that decided to charge Macon. Bell said prosecutors in his office have to decide whether a child died because of a tragic accident or if there was carelessness and recklessness involved.

“We have to look at these cases on a case-by-case basis on whether we think the action or inaction rose to the level of a crime,” said Bell.

Bell said something needs to be done to reduce gun deaths, especially involving children. He said he supports prohibiting gun ownership by domestic abusers and people deemed dangerous because of mental illness.

“We do need to have common sense gun safety laws,” said Bell.

Earlier this year BJC Healthcare expanded its gun lock distribution program to all BJC hospital emergency rooms. In June, SSM Health expanded its gun lock program to all eight of its hospitals in the St. Louis region.

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