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Accidental shooting deaths, injuries peak during the holidays

  • Teka Russell is located in East Frankfort Park, Frankfort, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. She has many special memories with her son, D nomyar “Denom” Russell, in the park. The 16-year-old was fatally shot on Christmas 2014 by his older brother with a new gun he had received hours earlier; the shooting was ruled to be an accident and no charges were filed. Unintended recordings peak during the holidays, and are more likely than any other time of the year. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

    (Associated Press)

  • Teka Russell is located in East Frankfort Park, Frankfort, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. She has many special memories with her son, D nomyar “Denom” Russell, in the park. The 16-year-old was fatally shot on Christmas 2014 by his older brother with a new gun he had received hours earlier; the shooting was ruled to be an accident and no charges were filed. Unintended recordings peak during the holidays, and are more likely than any other time of the year, according to an analysis by The Associated Press and the USA TODAY Network. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

    (Associated Press)

  • This first day in 2011 photo by their mother, Ashlyn Melton, please let Noah Daigle, 13, and his sister, Sydney, in Plaquemine, La. Noah was accidentally shot on Dec. 30, 2011, by his best friend while staying with the boy at home. Milton said that she had no idea that the parents of Noah ‘ s friend allowed the teenager to have multiple weapons in his bedroom. (Ashlyn Melton via AP)

    (Associated Press)

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The happiest of the seasons is also one of the deadliest: Unintended recordings peak during the holidays, and are more likely than any other time of the year, according to an analysis by The Associated Press and the USA TODAY Network.

In all, 32 people were killed nationwide, and 59 wounded in the past two years the christmas Eve through New Year’s Day, the analysis identified as the most likely day for the accidental shooting of each year. The victims were mostly male and young, with an average age of 19. Nearly half of the shootings were self-inflicted, and most occurred in their own home.

The victims are people like Tezlar Wayne Ross, a 20-year-old man from Gaffney, South Carolina, who was killed while playing with a gun in his house the last New Year’s Eve. His girlfriend and two other friends were witnesses of the accident in Ross’ bedroom, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis said Fowler. Alcohol was not involved.

“They were absolutely the clown to hang out,” said Fowler. “And sometimes this is innocent fun, especially with a gun, you can get into trouble. A weapon that is not a toy.”

Several factors contribute to the increase:

— Children and young people of school for the holiday and have access to unsecured guns in their homes and those of family and friends.

— Adults are drinking alcohol and inattentive to gun safety or the safety of their children.

— New weapons have been given and received gifts in the tens of thousands.

— It is a popular time of year for hunting.

The count does not include three deaths and 16 injuries involving guns fired into the air to celebrate the New Year.

The AP and USA TODAY Network looked on holiday shootings after an earlier study shows that accidental shootings involving children happens a lot more often than the federal government statistics. Based on incidents compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, they found that more than 320 minors were killed by the accidental recording over a 2½ year that ended on 30 June.

For those who have lost loved ones in the holiday shoot-outs, the season is never the same. In recent interviews, the mother of two teenage victims urged families to be aware of the increased seasonal risks and take precautions to prevent unnecessary gun death.

“Alcohol and guns don’t mix,” warned the Teka Russell, 43, Frankfort, Kentucky, whose 16-year-old son, D nomyar “Denom” Russell, was shot during a family christmas gathering in 2014.

Denom’s older brother, who was 21 at the time, was given a gun as a gift earlier in the day to protect themselves. After a meal with the family, the adults were drinking while Denom played a video game, and a relative shot of the gun to a bank to see if it was loaded, Russell said.

Denom brother “very shocked” and started with the bullets out of the gun, which accidentally discharged as Denom walked around the corner to see what happened, ” she said.

The death was ruled an accident and no charges were filed. The family is still struggling without Denom, who was remembered as a happy-go-lucky high school freshmen who helped lift a struggling classmates.

The family wasn’t together last year for Christmas; Russell said that she will try to celebrate the holiday this year, for her children.

“I don’t want to always be remembered as a bad day,” she said.

FBI data show that guns are popular gifts for the holidays: The agency conducted more than 185,700 background checks requested by firearms dealers on Nov. 25, the shopping day known as Black Friday this year. That was a one-day record in the program’s 18-year history.

The AP, USA TODAY Network analysis showed that the rate of accidental shooting spikes by about 50 percent during the nine days studied in comparison with the rest of the year.

Gun violence researcher Yarn Wintemute of the University of California, Davis said that he was not aware of all the studies that an increase in unintentional shootings around the holidays, so the news outlets’ findings ‘ possible new paths.”

“A lot of people get new firearms during the holidays and may not be familiar with them — and not applying the basic rules of good behaviour with firearms,” he said. Alcohol also may play a role, he added.

Researchers said that the AP-USA TODAY Network investigation was the type of research that should be conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the agency is crippled under a 1996 law that blocked funding for research that can be used to advocate for gun control.

“There is a lot of research that can help target prevention efforts. This is one example among many hundreds,” said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

Ashlyn Melton of Plaquemine, Louisiana, does not need to be proof of the dangers of the holiday season. Dec. 30 is the fifth anniversary of the death of her 13-year-old son, Noah Daigle, who was accidentally shot by his best friend while staying with the boy at home.

Milton said that she had no idea that the parents of Noah ‘ s friend allowed the teenager to have multiple weapons in his bedroom. The boy was playing with one that he thought was unloaded when he shot and killed Noah, while they speak with two girls via a video on the internet. He was convicted of negligent homicide in juvenile court, and is expected to complete his five-year probation in February.

Melton urges parents to “be careful” to protect guns from a visit to the children and to ask others about their gun safety practices. The last photo she has of Noah, an eight-year-old who likes to hunt and wrestling, was of Christmas.

“Each year, when the time changes, it starts to reminds me that five days after Christmas, my child is murdered,” she said. “The holidays are supposed to have a good time and a fun time, but it is about me cringing, because I know what Dec. 30 means to me.”

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