INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – What would your child do if you weren't around and they found a gun?
Law enforcement officials say it's a question Hoosier parents should be asking themselves since Indiana has a real problem with kids getting their hands on loaded guns. In an Associated Press/USA Today report, the Hoosier State was ranked seventh in the entire country for accidental shootings involving children.
This year began with an investigation into the accidental shooting death of a 5-year-old Indianapolis girl. Police said her 3-year-old brother grabbed his mom's gun out of her purse on New Year's Eve.
Police want parents to do more to protect their kids. That's why Lawrence police teamed up with FOX59 to show moms and dads how to prevent a dangerous discovery.
A hidden camera experiment
We invited eight kids ages four to nine and their parents to a play date. With the permission of these parents, we set up hidden cameras.
Captain Tracey Cantrell with Lawrence Police provided an unloaded gun for our experiment. He showed his gun to all the parents and then placed it in a tote full of toys. Then two moms took the tote upstairs to the kids. The rest of the parents were watching the live feed on monitors set up in the garage.
The moms hadn't even left the room yet, when the oldest boy grabbed the gun.
Some of the children ran downstairs to tell the parents, but they came right back up.
"What is that?" one of kids asks the other.
"It's a real gun," replies another.
The oldest boy points the gun and waves it in the air. You can even hear him pull the trigger over and over again.
Then it looks like it's the girls' turn. Two girls don't shy away from picking up the weapon. One even holds the gun right at another girl's face.
The kids once again run downstairs and this time the parents come back up with them.
"Sorry!" screams one of the girls. "We did it!"
Not a toy
Captain Cantrell tells the children what they were just playing with is a real revolver.
"This is an actual real gun. This is not a toy," he said.
The oldest boy's father said, "I was surprised to see him just pick it up and immediately have it in his hands."
The boy's mom asks him why he picked up the gun. He answered, "I honestly thought it would be like a toy."
But what if the kids didn't think it was a toy?
We did the test again with older kids, at the TKO Taekwondo Karate Studio on North Michigan Road.
This time the gun is placed inside a bin full of equipment the teacher just brought in from his car.
At first, a young girl grabbed the gun out of the tote.
"Leave it! Stop! Don't touch it!" cried out another child.
Their tense parents watched outside the studio as a few children tried to stop the others. One boy even closed the bin, but it wasn't long until another child opened it up again.
"It's killing them, is what it is," said Captain Cantrell as he watched the live feed monitors with the parents.
Then a boy went in for the gun and grabbed it, but another child told him to stop, so he dropped it.
Most of the parents are relieved that none of their kids were playing with the weapon. That was a big win. But Captain Cantrell noticed a big problem. There was an adult working just a few feet away from the kids and none of them went to tell him what was going on.
An emotional lesson
Back at the house, our volunteer parents were pretty emotional at what they just witnessed.
The father of the little girl who pointed the gun at another child said, "I was a little scared."
His wife added, "It felt kind of emotional too. Seeing her. She was playing and she was pointing to the other girl."
"I don't want to come to tears at the idea of just thinking about how real that situation could've been," said another mother.
The kids, who thought the gun was just a toy, were learning a big lesson.
Captain Cantrell showed them a fake gun that looked incredibly real. He told them no matter what it is, they should always stay away and go find an adult.
The parents learned a big lesson too, especially those who thought they'd taught their kids about gun safety. Watching their kids on camera was a big eye opener.
"This has made me want to step up my game," said one dad. "Even though I already feel like I'm pretty safe. It's made me want to step up my game for my kids and for other kids around my kids."
Gun Safety Steps to Teach Your Kids
Captain Cantrell said it is never too early to begin teaching your kids about gun safety. Whether you have a gun in your home or not, Cantrell wants all parents to teach their children four simple steps which are also used by the NRA's Eddie Eagle Gunsafe Program:
- Don't touch
- Back away
- Tell an adult
Cantrell said younger kids in the pre-school or kindergarten aged group will need to hear these steps more often so it sticks. He insists the key is communication and killing your child's curiosity before it kills your child.