Toddler shot in head during sibling's gunplay to survive - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Toddler shot in head during sibling's gunplay to survive

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

The 2-year-old boy who was shot in the head while his sibling played with a loaded gun that had not been secured inside their home is expected to survive, but local gun safety advocates say dangerous accidents like this one are easily prevented.

Jacob Xiong is still recovering, which is not believed to be life-threatening at this point.

Investigators say they believe one of Xiong's older brothers found the handgun in an unlocked cabinet and wrongly assumed that it was not loaded. While the boy was playing with the gun, it fired and struck the tot.

"Yet another reminder -- if you have a firearm in your home, secure it," said Howie Padilla, of the St. Paul Police Department. "It's not only protection for you. It's protection for your loved ones."

No adults were home at the time. The four boys -- ages 2, 7, 9 and 10 -- were being babysat by the victim's 16-year-old sister.

Investigators found a number of other guns inside the home, but they declined to specify how many or whether they were locked up. Under state law, anyone who leaves a loaded weapon where they know -- or should know -- that a child could find it can be charged with a gross misdemeanor; however, advocates say that law is rarely enforced.

"No one wants to see a child or adult lose their life in a shooting like this, but it's equally hard to put a parent in prison after something like this happens," explained Leroy Duncan, of PROTECT Minnesota.

PROTECT Minnesota educates parents about the importance of keeping guns away from kids. In fact, one of their studies found half of boys between 8 and 12 who found a real handgun couldn't tell if it was a toy. Another study found that nearly a third of all accidental shooting deaths could have been prevented by safety devices like gun locks and load indicators.

"They can be prevented by not purchasing a firearm in the first place," Duncan explained. "They can be prevented by locking up an unloaded weapon and then locking up the ammunition separately, and making sure that ammunition is nowhere near a gun," suggested Duncan.

According to the Minnesota Safety Council, most unintentional firearm shootings among children occur when they are unsupervised and out of school.

St. Paul Police plan to turn the case over to the Ramsey County and city attorneys' offices to figure out if any charges will be filed.

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