ELMO –– The mother called 911 to say her five-year-old boy shot his baby brother with a paintball gun.
But it wasn’t a paintball gun. It was a .22-calibre Magnum revolver. And the nine-month-old boy didn’t survive.
Authorities are trying to figure out what led to yesterday’s shooting in Elmo, in the north-west corner of Missouri.
“At this point foul play is not suspected, and it appears at this time that the shooting was accidental,” the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Office said.
Sheriff Darren White told CNN affiliate KCTV that the baby was in a playpen when his brother found the gun lying around a bed.
When emergency crews arrived, they found the infant had been shot in the head. The child was flown to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, where he was pronounced dead, the station reported.
Authorities say the gun belongs to a relative, but not the mother. Police are investigating the gun’s ownership, KCTV reported.
The mother’s other three children are with relatives, according to the station.
The sheriff said guns were rampant in the rural community.
“We are big supporters of firearms around here,” White told CNN affiliate KETV. “We have a lot of people that own weapons. They hunt. They target shoot . . . . Most people are very safe with them, and this is one of those cases where everything went together in the wrong way.”
He added: “We got some guys that work here that have little kids of their own . . . . This kind of hits home with them, too. They take it personally.”
Though they say the shooting was accidental, authorities have not determined whether charges will be filed against any adult in the case.
At least one nearby resident told KCTV she believes the shooting could have been easily prevented.
“You know, just some gun safety could have come into play, and would have maybe, you know prevented the situation, but it’s just really sad, altogether,” neighbour Jessica Hutchinson said.
According to Project ChildSafe, gun owners should lock unloaded weapons in a safe, vault or cabinet inaccessible to children. Gun locks should be used in addition to safe storage, and ammunition should be locked away separately from any firearm.
Parents should also teach their children that if they find a gun in a house, they should leave it where it is and tell an adult, even if the weapon resembles a toy, the advocacy group says.
Yesterday’s incident is the latest in a series of high-profile shootings involving children. Among them, a four-year-old girl killed her cousin, also four, in Detroit while playing with a gun found under a bed last January, a nine-year-old accidentally killed a shooting instructor in August while firing a submachine gun at an Arizona range and last month a two-year-old fatally shot his mother in an Idaho Walmart after finding a gun in her purse.