GERMANTOWN -- A 7-year-old girl was shot in the arm at her before-school day care center yesterday morning by an 8-year-old boy who had brought his father's handgun from home, police said.
The girl, whom police would not identify, was in stable condition yesterday with what they described as a serious but not life-threatening wound. The boy, whom police also would not identify, remained in custody on unspecified charges pending a review by the Department of Juvenile Services.
The boy's father, 56-year-old John Linwood Hall of Germantown, was charged with leaving a firearm in a location accessible by an unsupervised minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
News of the shooting, which occurred just before 7 a.m. at the For Kids We Care day care center in the Northlake Apartments complex on Grey Eagle Court, shocked the Washington suburb.
"I think parents realize if this could happen here, it could happen anywhere," said Loretta Favret, principal of the nearby S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, where the girl is in second grade. "We all know that there are guns in our community, but the fact that they're getting so close to our children is scary."
Montgomery County police said the boy had carried his father's .38-caliber Taurus revolver and bullets to the day care center inside his backpack. He was handling the gun inside the pack when it fired, striking the girl in the arm, police said.
The girl was airlifted to Children's Hospital in Washington.
Police said the boy found the gun, which had been in Hall's possession for "a number of years," in an unsecured container inside a closet.
Maryland is one of 18 states with laws that hold gun owners responsible for leaving guns accessible to children.
Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler would not detail the charges against the boy. He said the boy was charged, in part, so he could be "available for the treatment and counseling" offered by the Department of Juvenile Services.
"It was a very difficult position for the police in this charging incident," Gansler said. "In one instance, you have the severity of this case. ... But on the other hand, the alleged shooter is only an 8-year-old boy."
Gansler said the boy knowingly brought the gun to the center, but did not intentionally shoot the girl.
Gun-control advocates said the incident demonstrated the danger of loose guns around children.
"If you decide you really have to have a gun, you'd better make damned sure you keep it secured and locked up," said Casey Anderson, an attorney for the Washington-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. "Kids are extremely curious about guns. Naturally they want to play with them. Even if you think they're mature, it only takes one mistake that can't be undone."
About six children were present at the center, one of two in Germantown operated by For Kids We Care, at the time of the shooting. A woman who answered the telephone number listed on the company Web site said she could not comment on the incident.
The State Department of Education, which licenses day care facilities, also was investigating the incident. For Kids We Care has been licensed to operate two centers in Montgomery County since August 2003, department spokesman Bill Reinhard said. The Northlake Center passed inspection in September.
Favret, the girl's principal, described her as "very popular."
"She's a favorite around here," she said. The school was sending notes home to parents yesterday afternoon.
Jacquelyn L. Tazwell was planning to take her 4-year-old son, Kyle Wallace, to a counselor.
Kyle has attended For Kids We Care since July. Tazwell was at work yesterday when a sister called with the news. She raced to the center.
"I wouldn't think something like that would happen, in a day care especially," Tazwell said. "Nowadays it doesn't matter where you go, bad things can happen."
Sun staff writer Nicole Fuller and researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.