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Associated Press
A 2-year-old girl was shot by her 5-year-old brother at this Cumberland County, Ky., home.

Girl, 2, shot with rifle made for kids

Kentucky boy, 5, kills sister with blast to the chest

– In southern Kentucky, where children get their first guns even before they start first grade, Stephanie Sparks paid little attention as her 5-year-old son, Kristian, played with the rifle he was given last year. Then, as she stepped onto the front porch while cleaning the kitchen, “she heard the gun go off,” a coroner said.

In a horrific accident Tuesday that shocked a rural area far removed from the national debate over gun control, the boy had killed his 2-year-old sister, Caroline, with a single shot to the chest.

“Down in Kentucky where we’re from, you know, guns are passed down from generation to generation,” Cumberland County Coroner Gary White said. “You start at a young age with guns for hunting and everything.”

What is more unusual than a child having a gun, he said, is “that a kid would get shot with it.”

In this case, the rifle was made by a company that sells guns specifically for children – “My first rifle” is the slogan – in colors ranging from plain brown to hot pink to orange to royal blue to multicolor swirls.

Kristian’s rifle was kept in a corner of the mobile home, and the family didn’t realize a bullet had been left in it.

“It’s a normal way of life, and it’s not just rural Kentucky, it’s rural America – hunting and shooting and sport fishing. It starts at an early age,” said Cumberland County Judge Executive John Phelps. “There’s probably not a household in this county that doesn’t have a gun.”

In Cumberland County, as elsewhere in Kentucky, local newspapers feature photos of children proudly displaying their kills, including turkey and deer.

“The whole town is heartbroken,” Phelps said of Burkesville, a farming community of 1,800 about 90 miles northeast of Nashville, Tenn. “This was a total shock. This was totally unexpected.”

Phelps said he knew the family well. He said the father, Chris Sparks, works as a logger at a mill and also shoes horses.

The family lives in a gray mobile home on a long, winding road, surrounded by rolling hills and farmland that’s been in the family since the 1930s. Toys, including a small truck and a basketball goal, were on the front porch, but no one was home Wednesday.

There’s a house across the street, but the next closest neighbor lives over a hill.

White said the shooting had been ruled accidental, though a police spokesman said it was unclear whether any charges will be filed.

White said the boy received the .22-caliber rifle as a gift, but it wasn’t clear who gave him the gun, which is known as a Crickett.

The company that makes the rifle, Milton, Pa.-based Keystone Sporting Arms, has a “Kids Corner” on its website. It says the company produced 60,000 Crickett and Chipmunk rifles in 2008.

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