DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's been three years since gunfire claimed the life of Sandra Person's grandson Z'yon. The 9-year-old boy was in the car heading to get snow cones with his family when he was shot.
"It's like a hole in our heart," said Person. "Time passes and you don't get over it. You get through it if that makes sense. It's hard. It's hard every day."
According to the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force, firearm death rates for children ages 0 to 17 increased dramatically from 2020 to 2021. In fact, North Carolina saw a 231 percent increase between 2012 and 2021. A 2021 CDC student survey shows 30 percent of high school students across the state report that it would take them less than an hour to be ready to fire a loaded gun without a parent or another adult's permission.
"It's really scary. That's my reaction to that," said Kella Hatcher, executive director of the North Carolina Fatality Task Force.
The Task Force submitted the report to Governor Cooper and the general assembly along with 11 recommendations addressing child deaths across the state.
Hatcher said House Bill 72 was introduced in the General Assembly to launch a statewide initiative aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of kids.
"What it looks like is state level tools and resources around firearm safe storage to educate people about the importance," she said.
Hatcher believes raising awareness could save another family from the heartache and pain of losing a child.
"Something needs to be done. I don't care if it's the legislation. Somebody needs to stand up and protect our future. I have other grandkids," said Person.
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