TALLADEGA -- Last week in Talladega, a 5-year-old boy found a handgun in his home, pulled the trigger and died as a result of his injuries.
It was, according to police, purely an accident. The story is heartbreaking, but it was not inevitable.
In the wake of this tragedy, The Daily Home reached out to Talladega County Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore, whose office provides regular gun safety classes, for advice on safely keeping a firearm in a home with young children.
“Children don’t know about real life dangers. They can’t necessarily tell between a toy gun and a real gun,” Kilgore said. “That is why it is incumbent on us to make sure they stay safe. You have to be aware. You should keep guns stored where young children can’t have access. Use gun locks and don’t necessarily always keep it loaded. Just some common sense safety precautions can help prevent a tragedy.”
Kilgore recommends a children’s gun safety course available online through the National Rifle Association. The program comes complete with animated video featuring Eddie Eagle and the Wing Team.
According to nra.org, the program is designed for pre-k students though fourth-graders and is meant to teach them “what to do if they ever come across a gun.”
The steps below are outlined in a song and illustrated in cartoon form, designed to make them easy for young children to remember.
Step 1 is “Stop. This first step is crucial,” according to the page. “Stopping first allows your child the time he or she needs to remember the rest of the safety instructions.” Then, “Don’t Touch. A firearm that is not touched or disturbed is unlikely to be fired and otherwise endanger your child or other people.”
The next step is to “Run away. This removes the temptation to touch the firearm as well as the danger that another person may negligently cause it to fire.”
Lastly, “Tell a grown-up. Children should seek a trustworthy adult, neighbor, relative or teacher -- if a parent or guardian is not available.”
An article on the medical website WebMD cites American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines that recommend teaching children the exact same program, almost word for word, cited by the NRA.
The academy also suggests “parents get serious about making sure guns are locked up by the time kids are ready to crawl -- around six months. Later, when kids go to friends’ or relatives’ homes for play dates, ask if there are guns in the house and if they’re stored safely … Tell kids it’s never OK to touch a gun unless you’re supervised. If no responsible adults are around and another kid pulls out a gun, you leave right away. And if that happens, you go and tell your parents immediately.”
Kids should be reminded that guns in video games, movies and television are not real, and that real guns can do real harm.
The WebMD essay also quotes Bill Brassard of Project ChildSafe, a gun-safety education program of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. He points out that many children as young as 3 have enough hand strength to pull a trigger.
“Always keep guns locked and out of the reach of children,” Brassard said. “Store ammunition in a different place from the guns. Never leave a gun out and unattended. (And) tell your kids never to touch a gun or gun parts, in your house or anyone else’s.”
It is also important to make sure guns are stored securely, either in a safe or a secure gun case.
“We know children are curious and are good at finding things that adults think are hidden. So just hiding a gun under some sweaters on a shelf in your closet is not safe storage,” Brassard said.
“It’s the gun owner’s most basic responsibility to keep their firearms from falling into the wrong hands. And that includes children. They are just not mature enough to exercise good judgment around guns.”