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Toddlers have shot at least 23 people this year

(Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

This past week, a Milwaukee toddler fatally shot his mother after finding a handgun in the back seat of the car they were riding in. The case drew a lot of national attention given the unusual circumstances: Little kids rarely kill people, intentionally or not.

But this type of thing happens more often than you might think. Since April 20, there have been at least seven instances in which a 1- , 2- or 3-year-old shot themselves or somebody else in the United States:

Last year, a Washington Post analysis found that toddlers were finding guns and shooting people at a rate of about one a week. This year, that pace has accelerated. There have been at least 23 toddler-involved shootings since Jan. 1, compared with 18 over the same period last year.

In the vast majority of cases, the children accidentally shoot themselves. That's happened 18 times this year, and in nine of those cases the children died of their wounds.

Toddlers have shot other people five times this year. Two of those cases were fatal: this week's incident in Milwaukee, and that of a 3-year-old Alabama boy who fatally shot his 9-year-old brother in February.

Guns are now killing as many people as cars in the U.S.

These numbers represent only a small fraction of gun violence involving children. For instance, the pro-gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety has found at least 77 instances this year in which a child younger than 18 has accidentally shot someone. And there is a whole different universe of gun violence in which toddlers are shot, intentionally or not, by adults.

Looking at a map of where toddlers are pulling the trigger, some states stand out sharply.

Georgia is home to the highest number of toddler shootings, with at least eight incidents since January 2015. Texas and Missouri are tied for second place with seven shootings each, while Florida and Michigan are tied for fourth, with six shootings apiece.

You might think that toddler shootings are simply a function of population — the more people who live in an area, the more toddlers are likely to shoot someone. But that doesn't appear to be wholly the case. California and New York are two high-population states that have seen only three toddler shootings between them since 2015.

And Illinois, home to infamously high rates of gun violence in Chicago, has not seen a single toddler shooting since 2015.

This suggests that other factors may be at play in the states that see disproportionately high numbers of shootings by toddlers. Missouri and Georgia, for instance, have fairly lax laws regulating how guns are stored to prevent child access. On the other hand, New York has no such child access laws in place, yet only one toddler has shot someone there since 2015.

Perhaps other factors are at play as well. There could be cultural factors — norms surrounding gun use and ownership, for instance — that may make these shootings more likely in some areas than in others.

Sussing out cause and effect in these cases, in other words, is still largely a guessing game. And it's a game made much more difficult by Congress's efforts to restrict the type of gun research that agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are allowed to conduct.

Until 2004, for instance, the CDC routinely asked Americans about whether they stored guns at home, and whether they made a habit of locking them up. That's no longer the case.

A table containing links to the sources for all shootings is below.

More from Wonkblog:

In the past five years, at least six Americans have been shot by dogs

One map shows why America's gun violence is so much worse than anywhere else

Where guns used in crimes come from

President Obama is known for keeping his emotions in check, but on the issue of gun control, the emotion flows freely. (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)
Date City State Child's age Child's gender
1/7/15 Kansas City MO 3 female
1/8/15 High Rock Lake NC 3 male
1/21/15 East Lake FL 2 male
1/21/15 Benton Harbor MI 3 male
1/24/15 Las Vegas NV 3 male
1/31/15 Albuquerque NM 3 male
2/3/15 Davie FL 3 male
2/9/15 LeBleu Settlement LA 3 female
2/23/15 Florissant MO 3 male
2/27/15 Houston TX 3 male
3/3/15 Hillsboro TN 3 male
3/8/15 Green River UT 3 male
3/19/15 Chatsworth GA 2 female
3/26/15 Montoursville PA 2 male
3/30/15 Jefferson GA 3 male
4/3/15 Raleigh NC 2 male
4/12/15 Cleveland OH 3 male
4/30/15 Peoria AZ 2 male
5/9/15 Louisville KY 2 male
5/9/15 San Antonio TX 3 male
5/15/15 Oklahoma City OK 2 male
5/17/15 Venice FL 3 male
5/19/15 Snowville UT 3 male
5/23/15 Jackson MS 3 male
5/25/15 Lunenburg VA 2 male
5/30/15 Myrtle Beach SC 3 male
5/30/15 Abilene TX 3 female
6/12/15 Jeffersonville IN 2 male
6/12/15 Cincinnati OH 3 male
6/15/15 York PA 3 male
6/26/15 Pontiac MI 3 male
6/29/15 Franklin Township MI 3 male
7/2/15 Shreveport LA 3 male
7/6/15 Spring TX 3 male
7/14/15 Conway SC 3 male
7/15/15 Kansas City MO 3 female
7/18/15 Columbia MO 3 male
7/21/15 St Louis MO 3 male
8/4/15 Miami FL 3 male
8/5/15 South Anchorage AK 3 male
8/18/15 Hoover AL 2 male
8/25/15 Hanley Hills MO 1 male
9/22/15 Lake Placid NY 3 male
9/22/15 Dallas OR 2 male
10/12/15 Rock Hill SC 2 male
10/16/15 Cedar Grove WV 2 male
10/19/15 Dodge County GA 3 female
10/24/15 Hidalgo County TX 3 male
10/27/15 Acworth GA 2 male
10/29/15 Fort Myers FL 2 female
11/11/15 Jackson GA 2 male
11/15/15 Rock Hill SC 3 male
11/17/15 Benton AR 2 male
11/19/15 Lubbock County TX 2 male
11/30/15 Nashville TN 3 male
12/3/15 Columbus OH 3 male
12/5/15 Stockton CA 3 male
12/12/15 South Hutchinson KS 3 male
1/3/16 Houston TX 2 male
1/3/16 Dubuque IA 3 male
1/4/16 St. Cloud FL 2 male
1/10/16 Lumberton NC 3 male
1/20/16 Flint MI 3 male
1/24/16 South Bend IN 2 male
1/27/16 Waldorf MD 2 male
2/6/16 Irondale AL 3 male
2/12/16 Louisville KY 2 male
2/17/16 Suffolk VA 3 male
2/20/16 Kentwood MI 3 male
2/26/16 Sunman IN 3 male
2/29/16 Apison TN 3 male
3/7/16 Sacramento CA 2 female
3/21/16 Lithonia GA 2 male
3/26/16 Rigby ID 3 male
4/20/16 Indianapolis IN 2 male
4/21/16 Kansas City MO 1 female
4/22/16 Natchitoches LA 3 male
4/26/16 Dallas GA 3 male
4/27/16 Milwaukee WI 2 male
4/27/16 Grout MI 3 male
4/29/16 Augusta GA 3 female