A 12-year-old St. Mary's County boy died last week after accidentally shooting himself in the head with a loaded gun he was playing with at his home, according to the St. Mary's County Bureau of Criminal Investigations.
It was the second time in a little more than two months that someone has died as a result of a child playing with a loaded weapon in the small community of Golden Beach in northeast St. Mary's.
The boy, whose name was not released by authorities, apparently loaded the .22-caliber revolver last Thursday and pointed it at his head before pulling the trigger, not expecting the round to fire, said Sgt. Delmar Smith, who is investigating the case.
Smith said the boy had been showing the gun to two neighborhood friends, ages 10 and 12, when he put the gun to his head about 6 p.m. at his home at Jarrell Drive and Gunther Drive in Golden Beach. No adults were at home at the time, Smith said.
Even though the boy loaded the gun and pointed it at his head, the shooting is being classified as an accident because the boy did not know the gun would fire, Smith said.
With many revolvers, a bullet loaded into the spinning chamber to either side of the center firing pin makes the bullet appear not ready for firing. But when the trigger is pulled, the gun automatically advances the chamber one turn, placing that bullet into the firing chamber position. That confusion may have led to the boy's death, Smith said.
Smith said there was no evidence that the other boys in the house had any contact with the gun before the shooting.
The boy was taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Leonardtown about 20 miles away in an ambulance because the snowy weather prevented an emergency helicopter transport. He was eventually transferred in critical condition to Children's Hospital in Washington, where he died at 11:23 a.m. the next day, Smith said.
Authorities are investigating why the boy's father, who is the only adult living in the house, left an unsecured gun in the house, Smith said.
Maryland law requires an external child-safety lock to be sold with every handgun. As of January 2003, all new handguns must be equipped with an internal, integrated child-safety lock that cannot be removed or discarded. But the law does not require gun owners to use the locks to secure their weapons.
When guns are stored with locking devices, in safes, or separate from their ammunition, the risk of suicide and unintentional firearm injury drops, according to a recent Journal of the American Medical Association study.
In 2002, 143 children in the United States 18 and younger died from unintentional firearm wounds, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Dec. 22, a 12-year-old boy playing with a gun in a house on Dudley Road in Golden Beach, accidentally shot and killed Brian Stephen Granville, 20, Smith said.