A five-year-old boy accidentally shot his sister in the head on Friday after discovering their father’s CZ38 9mm pistol in Seraing on the outskirts of Liège, RTBF reports. The young girl, named Mélissa, is currently in a critical condition in hospital.
The weapon belonged to the children’s father, a sports shooter, who had legally purchased and registered the firearm in 2021, obtaining all necessary authorisations.
Belgium has strict regulations for the purchase of firearms. They must be correctly stored, registered, and the application process is often lengthy.
It is unknown exactly how the children were able to access the gun, which was usually stored in a locked box. The specific pistol used in this apparent accident was a “double-action pistol.” This means that the hammer of the weapon does not need to be pulled back before firing, increasing the chances of accidental discharge.
Several members of the young boy’s family were arrested, interviewed, and released. Detectives have so far identified no malicious intent behind the shooting; however, police will conduct further hearings with the young boy in question.
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Shooting accidents involving children are not uncommon in Belgium. In 2019, a 12-year-old boy from Wallonia died after being accidentally shot by his friend while playing with a loaded carbine rifle.
In the same year, a father involuntarily shot his two children in Dison while handling an illegal firearm. He was arrested under charges of involuntary battery and assault.
There are currently around 1.45 million registered firearms in Belgium, according to the 2017 small arms survey. This puts Belgium at number 62 for the highest guns per capita, surprisingly, just one position above war-torn Afghanistan.