A 5-year-old Texas boy shot and critically wounded his 6-year-old brother on Monday after accidentally firing a pistol inside their home, police said. The accident was the third incident involving children and guns since Friday in Houston.
Police responded to an emergency call that a 6-year-old boy had been shot once in the lower abdomen area around 10:30 a.m. local time on Monday, Harris County Deputy Sheriff Thomas Gilliland told msnbc. When they arrived, officials found the child, later identified as Hayden, lying on the couch, alert and conscious.
Hayden was transported to the nearby Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, and successfully underwent surgery immediately.
"Children were playing with a handgun that was accessible to them," Gilliland said. "Was it laying out around or was it locked and stored?"
The siblings' mother and two younger sisters also were home at the time. No other injuries were reported.
Authorities also found a toy gun on the front lawn, Gilliland confirmed.
Officials are conducting an investigation into the incident. Ultimately, they will present their findings to a grand jury, which will review the material and decide whether or not to press criminal charges.
A day before the accident, on Sunday, a 4-year-old fatally shot himself with a loaded handgun at a foster home in Houston while under temporary care from his parents. And on Friday, a 3-year-old died after shooting himself in the head inside his Houston home.
The possible charge in all three cases would be making a firearm accessible to a child, Gilliland said. A grand jury could also charge a person with criminal negligent homicide.
Local authorities have urged residents to keep guns secured and out of the reach of children. Even if a home is "kid-free," accidents can happen when a child visits, authorities posted in a message on Twitter.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office continues to offer residents free gun locks, as well as car seats for kids. Gilliland asked parents to take responsibility and secure their firearms in a lock.
Nearly two children are killed every week from unintentional self-inflicted gunshot wounds or from being shot by another child, according to research published last year by Everytown for Gun Safety. More than 2 million American children live in homes with unsecured guns.
"These recent shootings in Houston are not accidents, they are preventable tragedies," said Angela Turner, a gun owner and the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Texas chapter volunteer.
Members of Moms Demand Action also are calling on gun owners to store their weapons responsibly with the launch of a campaign that aims to prevent child access to firearms by focusing on conversation and community awareness.