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Mother pleads for people to keep guns stored safely 4 years after son's death

Posted at 10:20 AM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 10:20:28-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana has one of the highest rates of unintentional shootings by children across the county.

Since 2015, 82 shootings have happened in the Hoosier state because a child got their hands on a unlocked gun.

Indiana ranks ninth in the country, according to a study done by Everytown for Gun Safety, when it comes to injury and death from unintentional child shootings.

It's something the organization and a mother we spoke to say is 100% preventable.

“To be honest, I never even thought to ask, 'Do you have a gun, and if you do, where is it? Is it stored?” Kandice Cole said.

In 2017, she dropped her kids off with a friend while she and her husband worked. A few hours later, she got a call she’ll never forget.

“I got a phone call that said Eric had found a gun and shot himself,” Cole said.

Her 4-year-old son had found a gun and a single round went off, hitting him in the forehead.

“The doctors told us that it was immediate,” Cole said.

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Four-year-old Eric Cole died in 2017 after he found a gun at home.

Cole continues to tell her family’s story to WRTV because she doesn’t want her reality to become yours.

"I want people to be aware. Every parent that will ask the question or every person that will store their firearm differently when kids are around and save someone's life," she said. "One simple act can save so many people the heartache that we go through every day, and I think I do because I don't ever want somebody to get that phone call that completely shatters everything that you thought you had. And, like I said, it never goes away."

According to Everytown, it’s estimated that 5.4 million children live in a home with at least one gun that is not securely stored. With record gun sales since the pandemic began, including a reported surge in first-time gun owners, researchers are increasingly concerned.

"We asked about animals and food allergies and things like that," Cole said. "I would love to see it talked about and normalized and done more that we're asking, 'Hey, you know, how's it going? You got any guns? We just want to make sure that they're put up,' because it's so heartbreaking every time I read something. Oh, it just breaks my heart and takes me back to that day."

You can get a gun lock of your own right now from the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. Officials say the safety accessory could be the difference between life and death.

Between the years 2015-20, there have been 2,070 unintentional shootings nationwide by children resulting in 765 deaths. So far in 2021, there have 259 unintentional shootings by children and 104 deaths.

Experts say gun purchases went up 64 % during the pandemic and unintentional shootings by children went up more than 30%.

Experts suggest introducing your kids to guns — letting them know what they are and most importantly they aren’t toys.