Ever since a doctor used 44 staples to help mend 9-year-old Dakotah Adkins after police said she was accidentally shot by one of her siblings during target practice, her life has been anything but normal.
“Emotional, physical, every day is a struggle,” said her mother, Mikayla Starret.
Dakotah is one of the hundreds of people accidentally shot in Florida every year.
And while the number of accidental shootings is decreasing across the country, the number in on the rise in Florida.
Dakotah’s family was shocked to find out what happened to her two months ago wasn't as rare as they thought. In Central Florida alone in 2018, 150 people were accidentally shot.
That's more than any year since the department of health started keeping that data.
Records show that Adkins was already on probation for manslaughter after he accidentally shot and killed 13-year-old Kasey Canada in 2011.
“I almost have no words for it, that someone so reckless, someone so unsafe, someone who didn’t care enough about the first child’s life, who died, let alone his own child,” said Dakotah’s grandmother, Melissa Wetherington.
In the nine years since Kasey’s death, accidental gun deaths and injuries have been trending down nationwide. But not in Florida.
In 2011, Department of Health data show 462 people were accidentally shot and hurt in the state, and that number has only grown.
Since 2016, more than 800 Floridians have been unintentionally shot each year.
And Florida’s growing population doesn't explain this rise in shootings. The rate of shootings per 100,000 people has nearly doubled in the past five years.
“I just don't know how you can contain this big of a problem,” Starret said.
Accidental shootings have risen at the same time as the number of Floridians with a concealed carry permit has quadrupled.
In Florida, applicants must complete an approved training course that includes a "live fire" portion at a range.
According to gun safety experts, that training should be more than enough for careful gun owners to learn how to avoid accidental discharges.
Starret said she watches every day as her daughter struggles to get back to a normal life after one of those accidental discharges left her with bullet fragments still in her body.
“It’s very hard and not only affects her, me, it affects her brother, her sister, her friends, her teachers,” she said. “(We’re) just trying to get back to where she’s going to be OK.”
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