We see it in the news time after time - a child injured or killed in an accidental shooting. Many play out the same way with a child finding a gun in a house and shoots another child or themselves.
"Everything to a child is a toy," Fairway Police Chief Mike Fleming said. "Whether it be the box the toy came in or the toy. It’s a toy."
The Fairway Police Department teamed up with KCTV5 News to test how children react when they find a gun.
Nine children, ages 3 to 7, and their parents came to the KCTV5 studio for a "toy test." Their parents know among the toys will be a realistic fake gun. They want to see how their children will react if they find it.
Fleming holds the toy gun in his hands. It’s heavy and the only indicator that it’s fake is a small piece of orange plastic where the sight sits.
"From a distance that looks like a Desert Eagle, which is a very high capacity handgun," Fleming said.
He hides the gun in between two white couch cushions which are covered with toys.
It’s a similar place where a gun was hidden at a Grandview home. A 4-year-old girl found it and shot herself in the leg. She survived and her grandmother was charged with felony child endangerment.
Before the children are brought into the playroom, the parents line up in the control room where they can watch the experiment play out on monitors.
Some of the parents are gun owners. Some don’t keep weapons in the house but all say they have talked to their kids about what to do if they see a gun. None of the kids were prepped in the days before the test.
A KCTV5 producer leads the children into the studio, and they rush to the toys, excited and eager to play. The feeling in the control room is tense. All the parents are zeroed in on where they know the toy gun is hidden.
At one point, the gun slides to the floor. None of the other children notice for several minutes. Then, the youngest of our volunteers, 3-year-old Jordan, spots the gun. She picks it up and pulls the trigger. You can hear the gun make a small pop.
There is an audible gasp in the control room as the parents watch. Everyone knows it’s not a real gun, but it’s tough to watch.
"My 3-year-old touched it first," said Emily Clearly, Jordan’s mother.
Jordan quickly loses interest, drops it to the floor and moves on to another toy. Another child spots the gun and wants his turn. Now, 7-year-old Josh picks it up and even opens the gun to inspect inside.
"The first thing he did was put his finger on the trigger," points out Fleming to the parents standing along side him as they all watch.
Josh’s mother is stunned.
"I didn’t expect this," said Jessica Collins in tears. "I’m completely shocked."
Josh does what many children would do and pretends to shoot in the direction of the other kids.
"Cool a gun! Where did you find that gun?” shouts 6-year-old Luke, begging for his turn.
The parents are understandably emotional in the control room.
"Mentally, all we could see was ‘bang.’ We could see in our heads an accident and it’s scary," says mom Markesia Tatum.
Fleming comes out and interrupts the play time. He asks the last child holding the gun if he can have it. The boy looks up wide eyed at the police officer and hands it over.
"Is this OK to play with?" Fleming asks the group.
The children give mixed answers.
"Do you think it might be real?" he asks.
Fleming sits with the children and talks about guns and gun safety. He explains what to do if they see a gun, and they’re not sure if it’s real or a toy. He tells the kids when they see it to stop, don’t let anyone else touch it, run and find an adult.
It’s the same message the National Rifle Association gives to children who go through their Eddie Eagle Gun Safe Program.
"It teaches the four basic steps any parent should teach their child whether they own a firearm or not," says Catherine Mortensen with the NRA. "If a child encounter a gun or what appears to be a gun, whether they think it’s real or not is to stop, don’t touch it, run away and tell an adult. That’s a huge part of what the NRA teaches to young people about firearms."
Fleming explains what to do, and the parents come up with their own game plan.
"I did not expect this at all," says mom Kim Erickson. "It broke my heart when I saw it. We’re going to have a long conversation."
The parents ask if their children can go through the scenario again for practice.
The children are brought out of the room and the gun is hidden again. They come into play, and this time, 6-year-old Landon finds it. He backs away from it and runs to tell his mom.
"They don't know how powerful that that gun is. That gun could take someone's life," Collins said.
Fleming explains to the parents that kids do what they see in movies and on TV. They don’t just hold the gun, they will instantly shoot it.
He also pointed out he has no problem with gun ownership, but he does have a problem with irresponsible gun ownership. He urges parents to use gun locks and safes.
Fleming also advises all parents should talk to their children about what to do if they spot a gun, even if you don’t own one. Knowledge could save their life if they find one at a friend’s or family member’s home.
Copyright 2016 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.