On Sunday morning, 4-year-old Bentley Thomas Koch, son of a firefighter, picked up a gun at his family's home in Chestnut Hill Township, Monroe County, and shot himself in the face.
The boy's death came the day before the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a comprehensive study on firearms deaths of U.S. children showing that 19 children are killed or receive emergency treatment for gunshot wounds daily
For children ages 1 to 17, firearms are the second leading cause of death behind car accidents, according to the study, published in Pediatrics.
"These are preventable injuries that have a major public health impact on early death and disability among children," the study's lead author, Katherine A. Fowler, told AAP News and Journals, a publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
On a slightly positive note, child firearm homicide rates, which had been on the rise from 2002 to 2007, showed a significant decline from 2007 to 2014, the study said. Unintentional deaths also continued to decline from 2002 to 2014.
However, child suicide rates involving firearms, which had shown a significant downward trend between 2002 and 2007, increased 60 percent between 2007 and 2014, the researchers reported.
Researchers analyzed data from the the National Vital Statistics System and nonfatal injuries by using data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and the National Violent Death Reporting System.
The results also indicated:
• About 1,300 children die and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year.
• Firearms deaths are higher for children in Southern states and parts of the Midwest.
• Firearms suicides in children are highest in Western states.
"However difficult it may be to confront the problem of firearm injuries in our children, youth, and families, we cannot ignore the magnitude of this ongoing public health crisis," Eliot W. Nelson, a member of the AAP Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention wrote in a related commentary to the study.
The Monroe County District Attorney's Office and the Pennsylvania State Police barracks at Fern Ridge are investigating Bentley's death. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, the Pocono Record reported.
"I never thought I would see the day I would get the news my only son has passed away," Lexie Antonini, the child's mother, posted on Facebook. "I don't know how to feel. I don't know what to do. I lost my everything."