Journee' Campbell's story is shockingly similar to others across Louisiana. A child is unintentionally shot in Louisiana at a rate higher than every other state except Alaska, according to The Associated Press and the USA TODAY Network, which analysed accidental shootings involving children ages 17 and younger from 2014 to June of 2016.
Unlike many other places in the nation, Louisiana has no laws specifically addressing parental responsibility for guns.
“We don’t have the gun owner responsibility and parental responsibility statutes that many other states have,” East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said.
Child access prevention laws in 27 states and Washington, D.C., impose criminal liability on adults who give children unsupervised access to firearms, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a San Francisco based nonprofit.
Steve Teret, a professor of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said child access prevention laws have proven to not only reduce accidental deaths, but also teenage suicides.
Two of Louisiana's neighbors, Mississippi and Texas — both states that are staunchly in favor of gun rights — have enacted forms of such laws.
Texas law provides for criminal liability whenever a child gains access to an improperly stored firearm, whether or not an injury occurs, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In Mississippi, an adult can be held criminally responsible for intentionally, knowingly or recklessly providing a handgun to minors.
Such laws haven’t gained much traction in Louisiana, Moore said, because there's always the concern that a parent or gun owner will unjustly go to jail for what is truly an accident.
Moore said that when he is presented with a case of a child accidentally killed or injured, the most common charge to pursue is based on negligence. But proving negligence is often quite a challenge, he noted, so often the most foolproof way to prosecute such cases is to see if the firearm belonged to a felon or was otherwise illegally possessed.
Ken Levy, an LSU law professor, chalks up the high rate of accidental child shootings in Louisiana to both the prevalence of guns and the lack of laws that hold people accountable for keeping their firearms safe — and, more importantly, for when they don’t.
“If anyone’s to blame here, it’s the legislators,” Levy said. “Everybody’s got guns down here and they’re not locking them up and keeping them from their kids. What do you expect? It’s a recipe for disaster.”
But Baton Rouge lawyer Frank Holthaus says the problem isn’t rooted in laws — it’s a matter of people being irresponsible.
"We need to have children protected from people who have guns, that's where we need to draw the line,” Holthaus said. “The law is good enough. We just need to have people who have children take care of their children.”