SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — It only takes a second — a gun is left out in a home, a child finds it and pulls the trigger.

It happened on June 22, when 4-year-old Tre Anderson somehow got hold of a loaded gun and pulled the trigger.

“I don’t want another grandmother to get the call that I got,” Elizabeth Covington said. “My daughter called me and said momma get over here.”

“She said Tre had been shot!” Covington said as she fought tears.

Tre was with his father that day at his paternal grandparent’s house on South Germantown Road. Tre’s mother, too upset to show her face on camera, was on her way to get Tre when she found out.

“I was banging on all the doors, and I got in there, and I see my baby lifeless, shot. I just fell. I couldn’t do nothing for him,” she said. “You can’t blame this on my son. You can’t say he shouldn’t have picked it up.”

Tre didn’t survive. Germantown police said the shooting is still under investigation, but said it wasn’t an intentional act.

“I shouldn’t be here, and no other parent or grandparent should be in the position that we are in,” Covington said.

As part of News Channel 3’s Gun Safe Memphis, we are promoting safe gun ownership.

Every year, far too many children gain access to a gun and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else. Tre’s tragedy is just one of several in the Mid-South so far this year.

  • In March, Memphis police say an AR-15 was left in a bedroom in Westwood. A three-year-old boy found it and shot himself in the head.
  • Weeks later, a teen was reportedly playing with a gun in Hickory Hill and shot his 16-year-old friend in the stomach.
  • Earlier this month, a thirteen year old was reportedly playing with a gun in Wynne, Arkansas when he unintentionally shot his 10-year-old brother.

“It’s really hard to manage. It’s pull yourself up and get the kid what they need. Then go home to your own children and not be devastated by what you saw,” Dr. Regan Williams said.

Williams is the trauma medical director at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Already this year, they’ve treated 77 patients for gun shot wounds.

“Accidentals right now are about 30% of injuries,” she said.

In 2021, they treated 44 patients with unintentional firearm injuries, 45 the year before, and 33 in 2019.

“It’s heartbreaking. Every story,” said Kat McRitchie, a volunteer with the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action.

She and Lesia Bullard told WREG about their Be SMART campaign, which works to make sure parents are never too comfortable or careless with a firearm.

Bullard said it outlines simple steps to follow like “securing your guns locked and unloaded” and store parts like the ammunition separately.

“That’s the standard. The National Sport Shooting Foundation is going to tell you that. That’s the standard for secured storage. Locked and unloaded,” said McRitchie.

They ask that people invest in safes, vaults or a lock. At every Memphis police precinct, citizens can get a free gun lock.

Dr. Williams encourages locks, especially now that guns have killed more children than car accidents, which until 2020 had been the leading cause of juvenile deaths.

*rate is deaths per 100,000

“We didn’t take cars away. We just made them safer. We got airbags and seatbelts,” Williams said. “We haven’t had that same legislation that’s helping to encourage and promote keep children safe from guns.”

Covington agrees.

“We’ve got to do better. I am angry. I am angry, because we shouldn’t be having this conversation about a gun being left in a child’s possession,” she said. “Tre was the best child. He was perfect. Perfect.”

Tre died just days before his 5th birthday. She said having this conversation is her way of healing. She wants to prevent another family from this pain.

“I have cried where I cannot cry no more. I am just numb. I am numb. I shouldn’t be having this conversation. We shouldn’t be talking about putting guns up,” she said.

For more stories, see the Gun Safe Memphis page on WREG.com.