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A 4-year-old boy killed his 3-year-old brother with a gun his mother kept near her bed for protection, officials said Sunday.

The accidental shooting took place Saturday in a house in Rancho Cordova, near Sacramento, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

The 29-year-old mother slept in the bedroom of her two boys Friday night because her husband was away on business, placing a handgun in the boys' night stand for protection, the department said in a statement.

She failed to remove the gun the next morning, and the children got hold of it. The mother was in the kitchen about noon Saturday when she heard a shot in the boys' bedroom.

She went there and found that her 3-year-old son had been shot in the side by his 4-year-old brother, the Sheriff's Department said. The boy was rushed to a local hospital, where he later died, it said.

The mother could face felony child-endangerment charges, the sheriff's department said.

The 4-year-old was taken into protective custody. The family was not identified.

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