Authorities stress gun safety after recent shootings

Posted December 8, 2009 By Lindell Kay,   Authorities are stressing gun safety after two recent unrelated accidental shootings left a toddler dead in his home and a 58-year-old woman injured at the Jacksonville mall.   “Respect all weapons and use them responsibly,” said Jacksonville Police Lt. Devon Bryan. “Never point a weapon at something that you do not intend on destroying.”   A shopping trip turned into a nightmare for Letha Gibbs on Friday when she was shot in the face by a storeowner’s handgun that fell on the floor. Still in Pitt County Memorial Hospital, Gibbs told reporters that she did not realize she had been shot and thought she had been electrocuted.   Gibbs said that although the bullet is still lodged in her face, she will not need surgery. Doctors told her the fragment will work its way out on its own.   The Jacksonville Police Department said the shooting was an accident; the store owner, 77-year-old Foster Carter is licensed to carry the firearm; and no charges will be filed.   Onslow County Sheriff’s detectives are still investigating the death of 3-year-old Tyler Lewis who shot himself in the forehead after finding a handgun in his Kanton Hills home last month. His death was ruled an accident by medical examiners, but there are certain North Carolina laws about not leaving a gun accessible to minors, prosecutors said.   The decision whether the child’s parents will be charged has not been made.   Police said anyone who plans to own a firearm should know how to use it properly.   “Gun safety at home is extremely important. First before handling a firearm the user should learn and follow the recommendations of the manufacture on how to properly use it,” said Bryan, a sniper who trains police officers and military personnel.   He said that when firearms are not in use they should be secured in a gun safe or with the use of a gun lock.   “All types of firearms should be locked or secured so that children are incapable of having access to them,” he said.   Not only should the weapons be locked, but the keys to those locks should be kept safely out of a child’s reach, he said, adding that ammunition should be stored in a location separate from the firearms.   “Treat each firearm as if it were loaded, and never give or hand someone a loaded firearm,” he said. “If someone hands you a firearm, double check it by visually and physically inspecting it to ensure that it has been unloaded.”   He said people practicing with firearms should always be aware of their surroundings and not assume a target will stop a bullet — bullets can possibly travel through the target and beyond.   Onslow County Sheriff’s Capt. Donnie Worrell said there are four cardinal rules in gun safety:  

  • Treat all guns as if they are loaded.
  • Point the gun’s muzzle in a safe direction at all times.
  • Be sure of your target and what is around and behind it.
  • Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you are on target and have decided to fire.

  Worrell also said a child’s curiosity may override a parent’s direct order for the child not to touch a firearm. And parents should not be fooled into thinking a child cannot pull the trigger of a double-action weapon.   He said all firearms should be secured; there is no such thing as a good hiding place for a gun.

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