(CNN) – A Chicago father who police say illegally bought a gun is facing charges after one of his boys accidentally killed another with the weapon.
Such shootings are rare — children are about 19 times as likely to die in traffic accidents and nine times as likely to drown as they are to be accidentally shot, according to federal statistics.
But the shocking nature of such deaths, the tender age of the victims and the national argument over guns combine to create a volatile mixture sure to inflame passions on both sides of the gun control debate.
Gun control advocates argue research shows children often know where weapons are hidden and say weak state laws offer too little deterrent to careless storage of guns. The National Rifle Association has argued that mandatory storage laws are unnecessary.
In the Chicago case, Michael Santiago, 25, was charged with felony child endangerment after the shooting Saturday in which his 6-year-old accidentally shot his 3-year-old during a game of “cops and robbers.”
The loaded gun had been wrapped in a pair of pajama pants and stashed on top of the refrigerator, Chicago police said.
Santiago was at work at the time, and the boys’ mother was at the store. Their grandfather Israel LaSalle, who lives upstairs from the family, was watching the boys and had sent them downstairs to their apartment to get something with which to clean up after the dog, according to CNN affiliate WLS-TV.
“I heard a pop, you know, like somebody had shot, so I opened the door and I look out and he was running up the stairs and he told me somebody shot his brother,” LaSalle told WLS.
The 3-year-old died at a hospital.
Michael Santiago charged after knowingly leaving loaded gun in house where 6 yo son accidentally shot 3 yo brother pic.twitter.com/yYC6n4dKlv
— Chicago Police (@Chicago_Police) October 18, 2015
Santiago is a former gang member who illegally purchased the gun, police told CNN on Monday. He is being held in lieu of $75,000 bond.