He said he was going to watch cartoons. Instead, he opened his dad’s gun safe.

This story is adapted from “ Children Under Fire: An American Crisis ,” which will be published March 30 by Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. The book examines the devastating effects of gun violence on the nation’s kids and offers a new way forward. It was a balmy evening in summer 2014, just five days after Tyler Paxton celebrated his 11th birthday with chicken nuggets and meatballs. His dad, Jonathan, kept the key atop the safe it opened, never hiding it from his only child because he trusted Tyler. An avid shooter, Jonathan had taught his son how to fire guns and how to handle them safely. That night, as Tyler’s parents relaxed in front of the TV in the living room, the fifth-grader announced that he wanted to watch cartoons and headed to their bedroom, where he did something else instead. Tyler reached up and took the key, opened the cabinet door and pulled out a .357 magnum revolver with a snub nose. In a safe packed with rifles, it was the only loaded firearm. Every day in America, children handle guns that they’re not supposed to touch, and every day, they hurt people with them. Kids younger than 2 have killed siblings. Older children have shot friends, parents, neighbors, classmates and, thousands of times, themselves. And yet, after two mass shootings fuel a push for universal background checks and an assault weapons ban in Congress, few of America’s political leaders are championing laws that protect children from […]

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