CINCINNATI -- For 152 American families between 2014 and 2016, gun violence entered their lives in a way they never could have predicted: Not in the form of a conscious attacker, but in the form of a curious child.
According to the Associated Press and USA Today, 152 children under the age of 12 accidentally killed themselves or another child with a gun during that time period. Over the course of three years, that's nearly one such shooting death every week -- and it's entirely preventable, according to Cincinnati Police Department Sergeant Eric Franz.
He's seen it close up at least twice.
"The children get the guns and play with them, and next thing you know, somebody's shot," he said.
Franz and his colleagues at the police department hope they can remind parents in Greater Cincinnati to stop tragedies like these before they ever happen by keeping their guns stored securely and separate from their ammunition in places that children can't access. Although it might seem smart to hide a gun in a place where you can quickly reach it in case of trouble, keeping it accessible to yourself means it's also accessible to roving toddlers.
"It's not uncommon to find them in a heater or air conditioning unit," Franz said. "We (also) get these kids that find them in the basement or up in the rafters and they think it's a toy, not something real."
He recommended gun safes, especially those with biometric locks, for those gun owners who want to keep their firearms nearby but away from potential misuse.
For any parents who want to take an extra step toward security, the Cincinnati Police Department will offer free gun locks at its District One headquarters over the summer. By fall, Franz said, the department will make the free locks available in every district.