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Father whose toddler allegedly shot herself with his gun is first person to be charged under Michigan’s firearms storage law, prosecutor says

By Raja Razek and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

(CNN) — A man in Flint, Michigan, has become the first person to be charged under the state’s new safe firearms storage law after his 2-year-old daughter shot herself in the head with his gun, leaving her in critical condition, prosecutors said.

The father, Michael Tolbert, is also facing a slew of other charges in the Valentine’s Day shooting, including child abuse, being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and lying to a police officer, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton announced Tuesday.

The incident happened the day after the firearms storage law went into effect, requiring gun owners to store firearms unloaded and secured with a locking device or stored in a lockbox if a minor lives at or is likely to visit their property.

“This is the first case in Michigan where an individual has been charged with violating the firearm safe storage law,” Leyton said in a news conference.

Police searched Tolbert’s home after he brought his daughter, Skye McBride, to a hospital with a gunshot wound to her head, Leyton said. Doctors say Skye, who was still in critical condition Tuesday, will lose her eye, he added.

Inside Tolbert’s home, police found a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol in a bedroom, where there was blood on the floor next to a toddler’s chair, the prosecutor said.

“Upon examining the firearms, both were unsecured and loaded with live ammunition,” Leyton said. “There were no gun locks or safes inside of this front bedroom.”

Leyton did not detail how the child obtained the gun. He told reporters that prosecutors can show that the child “got her hands on a gun and something bad happened.”

Firearms have been the leading cause of death in children and teens in the US since 2020, accounting for nearly 19% of childhood deaths in 2021, CDC data shows. So far this year, more than 200 children 17 and younger have died from guns and more than 400 have been injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the firearm storage law last year as part of an expansive gun violence prevention package, which also created universal background checks and established several restrictions on who can obtain a gun license.

The legislation was championed by state Democratic lawmakers after a gunman killed three Michigan State University students and critically wounded five others in February 2023, adding to the pain of a 2021 shooting at Oxford High School near Detroit that left four students dead and six others injured.

State Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet, who co-sponsored the legislation, said that she hoped that it would “never be used.”

“I did not ever dream that within days of the law going into effect, we would need it. But here we are,” she said at the news conference. “I’m hopeful that these prosecutions, and that as we raise awareness in the public about the importance of safe storage, that we will use (the law) less and less.”

McDonald Rivet said she was “devastated” to hear the news of Skye’s injury.

“Any time a child is harmed, it’s a tragedy,” she said. “Honestly, I worry about a day that we don’t feel devastated when this happens. When we become numb to it, we have a really big issue.”

CNN has reached out for comment from the Genesee County Public Defender’s office, which is representing Tolbert.

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