Dad was at work, mom at the store, and grandpa upstairs making Kool-Aid. The kids were in the kitchen, having fun playing cops and robbers.
But when the 6-year-old brother took a loaded revolver from the top of their refrigerator and fatally shot his 3-year-old brother Eian Santiago in the head on Saturday, their family wept, and the father now faces up to five years in prison.
Michael Santiago, 25, was charged with felony child endangerment. Now out on bail, he is due in court Friday for a preliminary hearing.
Mr. Santiago had reportedly kept the gun on top of the refrigerator, presumably out of the children's reach, but loaded. Santiago told investigators that he felt he needed the gun for protection after testifying in a gang-related trial.
The tragic story adds to a controversial dialogue over the issue of firearms in homes with young children, especially in a country where there are an estimated more guns than people.
It’s a conversation that has been happening for decades. In 1999, The Christian Science Monitor’s Todd Wilkinson reported on the issue of keeping firearms out of the hands of children, and one advocate told him there needs to be more gun training to understand the dangers:
[Chris Chaffin with the National Shooting Sports Foundation] says there is a difference between trying to aggrandize guns in the eyes of a child and mentoring them about the obligation to be responsible. He's careful not to promote the idea of gun classes in school, but he argues that a public which is better educated about guns is safer.
If schools teach a wide array of nonacademic subjects, such as sex education, balancing a checkbook, and swimming, he asks, then why not prepare students for a society where guns are abundant?
More than a 15 years later, how to teach children about gun safety remains a hotly contested issue. Some doctors inquire from their patients about guns in the home, much to anti-gun control advocates’ chagrin, and Florida actually cracked down on this in 2014.
According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, nearly a third of accidental firearm deaths may be prevented with childproof safety locks and loading indicators. A third of handguns are kept loaded, unlocked, and their location known by children.
This report contains material from Reuters.