The boy climbed out of his car seat at a Tacoma gas station, found the gun under the driver’s seat, and pulled the trigger, The Associated Press said.
“It is incredible in light of the other ones,” Officer Naveed Benjamin told the AP. “You would think people would take more care, not less.”
Paramedics rushed the boy to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The father, who had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, had placed the gun under the seat as he went to pump gas. His wife also left the car, and went into the convenience store, KIRO TV reported.
Police said they don’t expect to lay charges, but the investigation is ongoing.
The shooting happened about 12:30 a.m. today.
The vehicle was a dark Chrysler Pacifica from Oregon, but police said the family lived in Washington.
The family’s daughter (about 4 years old) was also in the car, but she wasn’t hurt, The News-Tribune of Tacoma reported.
“You can’t predict what children are going to do,” Benjamin told The News-Tribune. “You need to unload and lock it up if you’re not carrying it. And keep it out of the hands of children. It’s really not that hard to practice firearm safety.”
Less than a week ago, the 7-year-old daughter of a Marysville, Wash., police officer died when a sibling found his gun and fired. That incident also happened in the family van.
On Feb. 22, a young boy brought a gun to school in his backpack. It went off as he put the bag on his desk, wounding a classmate. She’s in serious condition.
The AP said the boy – who lives with his uncle – found the gun in the glove compartment of his mother’s car. Both the woman and her boyfriend face charges in that case.
A Washington State gun-control organization is running a public awareness campaign urging people to think again about buying guns.
“We think guns are dangerous, but they are not treated as dangerous by our society or by laws or by our regulations,” Washington Cease Fire director Gregory Roberts said. “We regard guns as some sort of sacred object that should not be subject to regulation.
“Unfortunately, we’ve been saying the same thing over and over because we see the same thing happening over and over.”