In the Chicago case, Michael Santiago, 25, was charged with felony child endangerment after the shooting Saturday in which his 6-year-old accidentally shot his 3-year-old during a game of “cops and robbers.”

The loaded gun had been wrapped in a pair of pajama pants and stashed on top of the refrigerator, Chicago police said.

Santiago was at work at the time, and the boys’ mother was at the store. They were being watched by their grandfather Israel LaSalle, who lives upstairs from the family and had sent the boys downstairs to their apartment to get something with which to clean up after the dog, according to CNN affiliate WLS-TV.

Such incidents are rare — children are about 19 times as likely to die in traffic accidents and nine times as likely to drown as they are to be accidentally shot, according to federal statistics.

But the shocking nature of such deaths, the tender age of the victims and the national argument over guns combine to create a volatile mixture sure to inflame passions on both sides of the gun control debate.

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