Officers warn parents: Lock up your guns

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After a surge of accidental shootings of children in the Bay Area, law enforcement is stepping up its warnings about gun safety.

A shooting in Tampa on Tuesday morning sent a 4-year-old boy to St. Joseph's Hospital after he shot himself in the chest.  

The unidentified boy, who is in serious condition, shot himself with a gun his mother's boyfriend brought to their home at Tampa's Key Vista apartments.

Deputies said the boy found the gun underneath a clothing dresser.

"When it comes to firearms and kids, in most cases those tragedies are preventable," said Tampa Police Cpl. Jared Douds.

Tuesday's accident is the third in the Bay Area since January 5.

That day, in Clearwater, a 10-year-old committed suicide after his mother got angry and sent him to a room where there happened to be an unsecured gun.

On Friday in Auburndale, an unsupervised 4-year-old shot himself in the face with a gun left lying around, and died.

"It was supposedly on a counter between the living room and the kitchen," said Auburndale Deputy Police Chief Andy Ray.

Douds says gun safety needs to be a full-time job for any gun owner, especially if there are kids around.

"Children are inherently curious and if there is a firearm present because of video games and media and everything else, the children are going to be curious about it," said Douds.

State law says adults must have trigger locks or a safe if a minor can reasonably access it. But it only takes one moment when you're not looking to wind up with a dead child.

"In many ways it is like operating a motor vehicle, how long can you not pay attention while you are driving, how long can you take your eyes off the road before something tragic happens?" asked Douds.

Douds acknowledges some may be fearful that certain safety measures can slow access to a firearm in case of an emergency, but says certain safety products allow the rightful owner to access it quickly, without jeopardizing a child.

In the shooting of the 4-year-old on Tuesday, they arrested Akia Thomas, 26, of Tampa, and charged him as a felon in possession of a weapon and with unsafe storage of a firearm.