TOMS RIVER, New Jersey (AP) -- A 4-year-old child brought a gun outside his home and shot a 6-year-old neighbor in the head, seriously wounding the older child when the weapon discharged as they played together, authorities said Tuesday.
The child got the .22-caliber rifle from inside his home in this southern New Jersey town and it discharged accidently around 6:40 p.m. Monday, county prosecutor Joseph Coronato said during a news conference. The wounded child was about 15 yards (13.71 meters) away from the younger one at the time.
The younger child's mother then called emergency services to report the shooting, Coronato said.
The shooting comes amid a national debate over gun control laws in the wake of a school shooting in Connecticut in December that left 20 young children and six educators dead.
The wounded child was hospitalized in serious condition and further details on his injuries were not disclosed. The younger child was not hurt.
Coronato declined to provide specific details on the shooting, citing the ongoing investigation, and said it was "too early" to know whether anyone would be charged in the case. He would not say who owned the gun or speculate on how the 4-year-old got the weapon.
Police Chief Michael Mastronardy called the shooting a "tragic incident" that has affected the whole community.
"Right now, we're keeping this child in our prayers, and I ask everyone to do the same," he said.
The shooting occurred in what neighbors say is a quiet residential area, at a home near the edge of a cul-de-sac.
"I'm sad for the children involved and their families, but I'm angry with whoever owns that gun and allowed a little child to get hold of it. A 4-year-old can't load a gun," said Debi Coto, who lives a few doors down from where the shooting happened. She said the families of the two children involved had not lived in the neighborhood for too long, and she did not know them well.
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