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Abu Dhabi: A 15-year-old Saudi girl killed herself after she accidentally shot herself in the head with a pistol at home in Jazan Province, southwestern Saudi Arabia, local media reported.

The girl, who was studying at a secondary school, took the firearm from a cupboard in the family home in the village of Abba in Samtah town, and pulled the trigger while aiming the gun into the air. As there was no discharge, she believed the weapon was not loaded.

Then she pointed the pistol at her head jokingly, in front of her sister and pulled the trigger again. This time, tragedy struck.

Police investigations were still underway to determine the circumstances of the accident, police said.

Store firearms safely

People are required by law to have a safe and secure place to store their firearms in their homes. Store firearms and ammunition separately, out of the reach of children, out of view and in a secure room, rack or cabinet, police warned.

The police said a loaded firearm is dangerous, so lock away firearms disabled, and store ammunition separately.

In 2018, accidental gun deaths accounted for 1 per cent (458) of total gun-related deaths (39,740) in the United States, according to Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

Thus far in 2020, there have been unintentional shootings by over 220 children. This has resulted in 92 deaths and 135 injuries.

Shelter-in-place orders during the coronavirus pandemic have led to major spikes in accidental shootings at home by children. Deadly unintentional shootings were up 43 per cent in March and April compared to the same months in the previous two years.

Some 77 per cent of accidental gun deaths happen in the home.

From 2006-2016, 6,885 people in the US died from unintentional shootings. In 2016 alone, there were 495 incidents of accidental firearm deaths.

Accidental gun deaths occur mainly to those aged under 25. In 2014, 2,549 children (age 0-19) died by gunshot and an additional 13,576 were injured.

Adolescents are particularly susceptible to accidental shootings due to specific behavioural characteristics such as impulsivity, feelings of invincibility, and curiosity about firearms.

Regulations require these minimum standards when storing your firearm:
A firearm must not be put in any place where a child has ready access to it.
Ammunition must be stored separately or the firearm made incapable of firing.

Police advocate taking the following steps to ensure safe storage of firearms:
Remove the bolt and magazine from bolt-action firearms and lock away separately from the firearm.
Make sure both the chamber and the magazine are empty before storing any firearm.

Police reaffirmed all family members, especially children, need to know what a firearm is, what it is designed for, and why it must not be touched.

Letting children handle firearms when you are supervising them may help to satisfy their natural curiosity but it is essential that children realise that firearms are not toys and must be treated with respect.

Children should be taught not to touch a firearm without an adult present, and if they find a firearm to seek the assistance of an adult.