02/05/13 11:57 CET
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A five-year-old boy in the southern US state of Kentucky has accidentally shot dead his two-year-old sister at the family home.
He had received the rifle, specially made for children, as a gift last year.
Reports say the weapon had been kept in a corner and the family had not realised it still contained a bullet.
The tragedy happened in Cumberland County – a rural area where it is common for children to own guns for hunting and target practice.
“The whole community is absolutely devastated from this. You know, I hope the outcome of this, you know, what we can learn from this tragic situation is, you know, is gun safety,” said Cumberland County Coroner, Gary White.
US gun manufacturers market weapons for children specifically. The company which makes the gun involved in the accidental shooting has a “kids’ corner” on its website with the slogan “my first rifle”. There are photos of young girls firing pink guns.
The shooting has highlighted the cultural divide in the US over guns. The American countryside has seen little of the recent efforts in cities and suburban areas to curb gun use and tighten regulations on ownership.
“It’s a normal way of life. I mean, folks – and it’s not just rural Kentucky, it’s rural America. I mean folks hunting and fishing, it’s sports shooting – it’s just a way of life. You know, you begin at an early age, learning to use and respect a gun,” said Joe Phelps, Cumberland County Judge Executive, whose position has been described as similar to that of a local mayor.
President Obama’s proposed gun control measures after the Newtown school shooting have largely failed so far in Congress.
Although several states have tightened laws, safety campaigners say ten states have actually eased gun controls. One of them is Kentucky.
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