ATLANTA (AP) — A 4-year-old Georgia boy found a gun hidden inside his house and shot himself in the head with it, according to a newly released sheriff’s report.
Justin Foss Jr. was pronounced dead Saturday morning after the shooting at his Augusta residence, Richmond County Chief Deputy Coroner Kenneth Boose Sr. said.
The boy’s father, Justin Foss Sr., 27, was booked into jail Saturday on a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, according to jail records.
Justin’s parents told an officer that their son “found one of their guns under the couch where they hid it and shot himself in the head,” the sheriff’s report states.
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Jail records do not indicate whether the father has a lawyer who could be reached for comment.
Data compiled by The Associated Press and the USA TODAY Network in 2016 found that a child was shot to death every other day somewhere in the United States, on average.
Deaths and injuries spiked for children under 5, and were more prevalent in Southern states, the research shows. Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi all ranked in the top 10 states with the highest per capita rates of accidental shootings.
In most cases of children killing themselves with guns, “it’s clear from the facts that they were preventable, and that just makes them even more tragic,” Lindsay Nichols, federal policy director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said Monday.
The California-based nonprofit provides technical advice to lawmakers, law enforcers, citizens and others trying to curb gun violence.
“I think it’s dependent on our nation’s leaders and policy makers to really make this a priority and recognize that these kinds of tragedies are happening way too often,” Nichols said. “For too many of our kids, their lives are at risk because adults are not doing the responsible thing and properly storing their guns.”
An autopsy on the Georgia child is scheduled.