Experts: Most accidental shootings involving youths can be prevented
(KSLA) - Accidental shootings kill or wound several ArkLaTex youths and teenagers each year.
And most all of the shootings seem to have one thing in common: a child playing with a gun that was not properly stored.
An Associated Press analysis found Louisiana is only second to Alaska in incidents per capita per state.
Texas is ranked at 27, Arkansas stands at 16.
Several ArkLaTex law enforcement agencies say they don't specifically track accidental shootings involving minors.
Without those numbers, KSLA News 12 searched its news archives and tracked the number of reports of such accidents within its viewing area.
Since the beginning of 2014, at least 19 youths and teenagers have been killed or hurt by guns accidentally going off.
That number serves as a snapshot rather than a comprehensive statistic.
National Shooting Sports Foundation spokesman Bill Brassard Jr. and other experts say accidental shootings among minors may be attributed to a lack of education about securely storing guns.
"The terribly sad part about firearms accidents involving children is that such incidents can be prevented by following a few gun safety precautions," Brassard said.
His foundation has the initiative Project Child Safe.
"To encourage gun owners to securely store their firearms when they are not in use to keep them out of the wrong hands, particularly out of the hands of children."
The program provides gun owners free educational materials and gun locks through law enforcement agencies.
"There is a secure storage device for every home circumstance. Really, there is no excuse for not properly storing a firearm to keep them out of the wrong hands."
Ron's Gun employee Gene Mock says the family-run business is all about gun safety.
"All of the manufacturers provide locks with the guns on the new guns. We have locks available here for the used guns free of charge."
He demonstrated different ways guns can be stored, out of the hands of kids.
"Just a moment is all it takes for a child to get a hold of a gun," Mock said.
If that moment happens, he said, that's where educating youths about guns comes in handy.
"Children aren't going to play with it if they know what it is capable of."
Teaching children while they are young is something Ron's Gun employee Helen Helverson believes in when it comes to her grandson. "At 4 years old, he's already learning gun safety."
Her grandson got a BB gun for Christmas.
"We are teaching him while he is using the BB gun how to do all the safety steps."
Helverson hopes by teaching him that the gun is not a toy, he will learn not to play with firearms.
"If we teach them young and show them the safety, then those accidents are greatly reduced."
The idea of teaching youths how to use guns safely is what brought about a dozen boys and girls to the Caddo Sheriff's Training Academy on a blustery and chilly Saturday morning in January.
The First Gun course provides basic instruction for children who may never have fired a gun but want to be able to use one safely.
"There really is no such thing as a firearms accident. It is always a firearm negligence," said sheriff's Sgt. Jim Dunn, the range master. "We feel education is the key to keeping kids safe, and the adults, too."
He said it is not unusual for ArkLaTex youths to get BB guns, rifles or shotguns for Christmas. "Hunting and firearm sports are part of our culture."
Scott Lowe brought his niece to the range. She received two guns for Christmas.
The one thing Lowe hopes she takes from the class is learning the importance of gun safety.
"It is very important," he said. "That is how accidents happen, when they don't know what they are doing."
Dunn also thinks teaching youths and teenagers how to use guns safely is important.
"A firearm can be useful and, at the same time, it can be dangerous. So with gun ownership comes great responsibility."
If you need a gun lock and don't have one, Project Child Safe can get you one for free through your local law enforcement agency.
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