Last Tuesday, 4-year-old Bryson Hernandez and his younger sister were spending the night at their grandparents’ house in Cypress, a suburb of Houston, Texas. Just after midnight, Bryson found his grandfather’s gun. He started playing with it. The gun discharged, delivering a fatal bullet to the boy’s head.
Hernandez is one of seven children under the age of seven to be hit with accidental gunfire in the United States since January 19. The shootings occurred in all corners of the country, from a bustling Louisiana city to a small Alaska village, in living rooms and car back seats. American children dying from gunfire is not rare. Since the Sandy Hook massacre four years ago, a child under the age of 12 has died by intentional or accidental gunfire every other day. But the last week was particularly deadly, especially in terms of unintentional shootings, which claimed the lives of nearly half the 11 children killed by guns so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Early last Wednesday morning, a 3-old-boy was sleeping beside his grandmother in her New Orleans, Louisiana, home when a gun tucked under her pillow discharged. It struck him in the chest, and he died later at the hospital. Late Wednesday night in Flint, Michigan, another 3-year-old boy inadvertently shot himself in the head with a loaded, unsecured 9mm pistol at his great-grandparents’ house. The boy died at the home. Police said the adults present at the time of the shooting appeared unaware that there was a firearm in the house.
Two more incidents occurred this past weekend. On Saturday evening, a 5-year-old was fatally shot by another child in the Alaskan community of Kokhanok. According to state troopers, the boy was playing video games at home when an 11-year-old found a gun and accidentally pulled the trigger. Also on Saturday, an Indiana toddler shot himself at home and survived, joining the thousands of children and teens who are hospitalized due to nonfatal gunshot wounds each year. Though the 2-year-old boy’s injury was serious, on Monday a local news source reported that he was in stable condition.
Another accidental shooting occured Monday afternoon in Tennessee, when four children were left unattended in a parked car while their mother and stepfather stepped inside a nearby cellphone shop. According to a statement from the Crossville Police Department, one of the children discovered a loaded semi-automatic pistol in their mother’s purse. While fiddling with the gun, it went off, striking a 7-year-old in the head. The boy was airlifted to a hospital, where he passed away later that evening. And most recently, on Tuesday night in New Orleans, a man was cleaning his gun when it discharged, hitting a 3-year-old who was in the home. The child was taken to a hospital and his condition was not immediately known.
Following the death of her grandson, New Orleans resident Deonca Kennedy was charged with negligent homicide, second degree cruelty to a juvenile, and child desertion. In last night’s incident in the same city, a man was charged with second degree cruelty to a juvenile, cruelty to a juvenile, and aggravated battery. Investigations are ongoing in the other five incidents, though so far no arrests have been made or charges filed. Law enforcement has deemed several of the shootings accidental. In Bryson Hernandez’s case, a grand jury will decide whether to file misdemeanor charges against the grandparents.
Meanwhile, Hernandez’s family is preparing for his funeral, drawing off what they knew of their young child. It’s a familiar grief for parents in the Houston area. Last week, the Houston Chronicle cited guns as the second leading cause of death for children in Harris County, after motor vehicles. According to a statement from Bryson’s family, the boy had a favorite superhero, adored for his strength and fearlessness. He will be laid to rest in his Iron Man costume.